Saturday, February 20, 2010

Egyptian Activists Detained for Anti-Gov't Spray Painting

Egypt detains activists over anti-govt spray painting
Wed Feb 17, 2010

CAIRO, (Reuters) - Egyptian security detained two members of a protest group on Wednesday after they spray-painted walls in Cairo to support a potential presidential challenger to Hosni Mubarak, members of the group told Reuters.

Ahmed Maher, 29, and Amr Ali, 25, both members of Sixth of April Youth, were detained after daubing walls in Cairo with slogans backing political change and a possible presidential run by former U.N. nuclear agency head Mohamed ElBaradei.

ElBaradei, due to arrive in Cairo on Feb. 19, has stirred Egypt's calcified politics by saying he might be interested in running in 2011. But his terms for running include changes to the constitution which analysts say are unlikely to be met.

Mubarak, 81 and in power for almost three decades, has not said if he will run in 2011. But many Egyptians believe that, if he does not, he will seek to hand power to his politician son, Gamal, 46. Both father and son deny such plans.

"Security agents appeared as soon as Ahmed and Amr had finished spraying messages supporting ElBaradei and change in Egypt," Sixth of April Youth member Omar el-Hadi told Reuters.

Interior Ministry officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

Activists are periodically detained and harassed, rights groups say. The Egyptian authorities have also intensified a crackdown against bloggers and Web activists seen as subversive.

Activists said members of the youth group and opposition Ghad (Tomorrow) party, including Ghad founder and lawyer Ayman Nour who is representing the two, gathered at a police station where the activists were detained to demand their release.

"These youth did nothing deserving of arrest and what happened is a violation of their freedom of expression," Nour told Reuters by telephone.

Nour, 45, who was Mubarak's main rival in the 2005 race, said he had been coordinating with Maher and Ali before their arrest to organise a campaign to welcome ElBaradei home.

The youth sprayed "Mubarak's reign has come to an end. Support change" and "No to Mubarak...Yes to ElBaradei for President for 2011" along Sudan street in Cairo.

Nour, who came a distance second to Mubarak in 2005, has said he wants to run for presidency in 2011 and to challenge a rule barring him from office because of a prison term that he said was based on politically motivated charges.

(Writing by Marwa Awad; Editing by Dominic Evans)

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