An Egyptian former diplomat was detained by authorities in Cairo on Thursday, just two weeks after calling for a referendum on Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government, said family members.
“Security forces took my father, Maasoum Marzouk, from our home without explanation and without cause just for practicing his constitutional rights of calling for a referendum,” Maisara Marzouk said.
“A minibus of around 15 civilian-dressed, armed security personnel arrived at 1 pm and arrested him, then searched his house and took his personal belongings without showing us the legal permit for that procedure,” she added.
Khaled Ali, Marzouk’s lawyer, confirmed the detainment, adding that seven opposition leaders also were arrested in the sweep.
Marzouk is a former ambassador and assistant minister of foreign affairs. He is renowned for his criticism of the Sisi government. He recently helped found The People’s Democratic Party, an opposition party.
Egyptian authorities have not informed Marzouk’s lawyer or family members of any charges that he faces. They believe he is being interrogated for his calls for a national referendum on the president.
In a statement issued on August 5, Marzouk called for a public referendum to answer one question, “Do you accept that the current regime stays in power?”
Maasoum Marzouk announced a roadmap this week including the suspension of the constitution and the dissolution of parliament if Egyptians vote against the government. He said if the government does not respond positively to his initiative, a “popular conference” would be held in Cairo’s Tahrir Square – the epicenter of the 2011 uprising – on Aug. 31.
The statement also outlined a series of critiques, including some of Sisi’s political, social and economic policies, which Marzouk said threatened Egypt’s wellbeing. The statement included an economic recovery plan prepared by opposition parties.
As a result, pro-government media figures and legislators have called for Marzouk to be prosecuted. Moreover, some lawyers have filed a complaint against the Egyptian ambassador Maasoum Marzouk, accusing him of “attempting to overthrow the incumbent regime and deliberately inciting the public,” local media reported yesterday.
Marzouk was also accused of “insulting the Egyptian judiciary” which is being represented by Hanafi Jibali the president of the country’s Supreme Constitutional Court. The complaints, which were filed to various local courts, called on arresting Marzouk and banning him from travel, media quoted official sources as saying.
Michael Page, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch, told CNN that Marzouk’s arrest in Egypt “appears to be the latest in an unending wave of repression against anyone who dares to criticize Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.”
“Due process, fair trials, access to a lawyer — all these fundamental rights are regularly denied to the tens of thousands of people Al-Sisi has now had arrested with impunity,” Page said.
Egyptians Abroad For Democracy Worldwide, a monitoring group based in the US, also condemned the arrest of Marzouk.
“We, immediately demand the freedom for Marzouk and we are holding al-Sisi regime responsible for the safety of his life,” the group said in a statement on Thursday.
“Our call to President Trump and the international community, your continued aid to General al-Sisi’s regime is a tool to murder, arrest, torture, and, exile the free people of Egypt who want nothing but freedom and Democracy,” the statement said.
Earlier this year, al-Sisi was re-elected in a vote in which all potentially serious competitors were arrested or pressured into withdrawing. The government has banned unauthorized protests and jailed thousands of people since 2013 in a massive crackdown on dissent.
In June 2018, Egyptians enclosed hashtag “Sisi_Leave” in (Arabic) trended with nearly 300,000 tweets over several days, but then subsided. Throughout the tweets, people urged Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to resign amid recent austerity measures carried out as part of economic reforms ordered by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Last month, Egyptians renewed again the online criticism of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, hours after he said he was “saddened” by a similar campaign a few weeks ago. The latest Twitter hashtag “Leave, Sisi” was also the top trend in Egypt on the social media platform late in that day with more than 50,000 tweets.