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Egypt 'Harassing' Relatives of U.S. Activist, Rights Groups Say

Local and international rights groups on Thursday accused Egypt of "harassing and intimidating" the relatives of a US rights activist after he lodged a complaint against a former prime minister. 

Mohamed Soltan, the son of a leading member of the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, was arrested in August 2013 following the military ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. 

In 2015, he was released and deported to the United States after renouncing his Egyptian citizenship. 

On June 1, Soltan filed a lawsuit with a US court against former Egyptian prime minister Hazem al-Beblawi over alleged torture. 

A joint statement by 21 rights group, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, said the homes of Soltan's relatives in Egypt were raided and five of his cousins arrested.

"The ongoing harassment and intimidation by  Egyptian security forces of the family of a US national seeking justice, truth, and reparation is a source of deep concern," said Thursday's statement. 

Calling them "reprisal raids" the groups urged Egyptian authorities to release Soltan's relatives and "end the systemic reprisals against human rights activists and their relatives".

Egypt's interior ministry could not be immediately reached for comment. 

According to the complaint, Soltan claimed that he was "almost killed, brutally wounded, imprisoned and tortured for nearly two years" during Beblawi's tenure.

Beblawi lives in the United States and works as an executive director for Egypt and several Arab countries with the International Monetary Fund.

The US Department of State's bureau of Near Eastern Affairs said "we are concerned about reports that relatives of U.S. citizen and former detainee Mohammad Soltan are facing acts of intimidation in Egypt".

"We will continue to monitor the situation and take seriously all allegations of harassment and intimidation," it wrote on Twitter.  

Egypt has increasingly targeted government critics in a crackdown since Morsi's military ouster, following mass protests against his brief rule.

Thousands of Morsi's supporters as well as secular activists, lawyers and academics have been arrested in the crackdown.

On Wednesday, an Egyptian news outlet, Al Manassa, said that police raided its office and arrested its editor-in-chief Nora Yonis.

She was released on Thursday on bail of 10,000 Egyptian pounds (just under $620) pending an investigation, according to Egypt's Arabic Network for Human Rights Information.

It said Yonis was suspected of running an "unlicensed" website.

Al Manassa, founded in 2015, describes itself as a platform that combines professional and citizen journalism.

Source: Agence France Presse


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