Egyptian opposition leader Dr. Abdel-Wahab Al-Mesiri said security forces abducted him, together with his wife and other activists, while they were demonstrating in downtown Cairo and dumped them in the middle of the desert to fend for themselves.
Al-Mesiri, the head of the opposition Kifaya party, was taking part in a demonstration on Thursday to protest rising prices and the government's plan to cut subsidies on basic commodities.
He told AlArabiya.net that plain-clothes security forces abducted almost 30 activists, drove them into the desert, then left them stranded in the cold.
Al-Mesiri, his wife Dr. Hoda Hegazi, and pharmacist and Kifaya member Dr. Karima Al-Hefnawi, were forced into a car with civilian license plates.
"They drove for almost two hours then dropped us in a totally deserted place and left," said Al-Mesiri, who wrote the Encyclopedia of Jews, Judaism and Zionism.
He said they tried in vain to stop a passing car until finally a private bus picked them up after the driver, who refused to take money, recognized them.
"Security forces told the rest of the demonstrators that we went home, so they should disperse, but we managed to call a friend and told him we had been abducted, and he informed the press."
"It is sadly ironic," Al-Mesiri added, "that this is the way the government deals with a peaceful gathering led by intellectuals, only one day after Bush declared Egypt will lead democratic reform in the region and the same day the European parliament lashed out at Egypt's human rights record."
Al-Mesiri said the government was worried more people would join the demonstration, especially since it was held in a working class district whose residents are most affected by the soaring cost of living.
Al-Mesiri later learned that some other protestors were taken as far Ain Al-Sukhna, 140 kilometers from Cairo.
Asked if he was worried that he would meet the same fate as ex-Kifaya coordinator Dr. Abdel-Halim Qandil, Al-Mesiri replied that his kidnappers did not use violence and were, in fact, quite civil.
In 2004, Qandil, the former editor-in-chief of the Nasserist Party mouthpiece Al-Arabi was kidnapped, beaten, and dumped naked in the middle of the desert.
He was captured in front of his home by four men who blindfolded him and tied his hands. In the car, the men took his eyeglasses, bag, and cell phone and beat him while holding a knife to his neck.
Qandil walked 300 meters until he found a military checkpoint, where soldiers gave him clothes and took him home.
Al-Mesiri vowed that no matter what the government does, he will not be intimidated. He also said that the movement would soon release The Black Book -- a record of the regime's abuses in various domains.
Kifaya, Arabic for "enough," is the popular name of The Egyptian Movement for Change, founded in 2004. The movement, as its name suggests, wants to put an end to President Mubarak's 27 year long term, rejects the possibility of a power transfer to his son Gamal, and calls for democratic presidential elections in Egypt.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).