Students at the American University of Cairo (AUC) demonstrated for the release of a German-Egyptian graduate student and Gaza activist who remained behind bars Sunday along with more than 70 opposition Muslim Brotherhood members, all arrested Friday for demonstrating in support of Gaza.
Police kidnapped Philip Rizk, 26, while he was returning from a Gaza solidarity march Friday night, whisking him away to an unknown location in the government's latest crackdown on dissent.
Reports Sunday indicated the number of Muslim Brotherhood members arrested had risen from intial estimates of 54. Security forces dispersed thousands of peaceful demonstrators Friday at several protests organized in five governates across Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood,
Gaza activist targeted
Philip Rizk, 26, had been a vocal supporter of Palestinians and spoke out against last month's Israeli offensive in Gaza on his blog, tabulagaza.blogspot.com, and organized demonstrations in Egypt against the war.
His sister described him as "very involved" in Gaza and said he was "quite outspoken on his views on Gaza."
"We think he's been being watched for quite awhile," she told AlArabiya.net in an interview Sunday.
Friends, supporters and bloggers have rallied to Rizk's aid, organizing a campaign for his release using the social networking site Facebook and blogs to bring attention to his case and demand his release. Friends organized a protest outside the Courthouse Saturday to demand his release.
A statement posted late Sunday night on the family's Facebook page "Support and Prayer for the Safe Release of Philip Rizk" said that AUC officials had spoken with a general in state security who received the first official response confirming "that they are holding Philip but that he will be detained for a longer period of time for further investigation."
Rizk said the German Embassy in Cairo had been in touch with the police and issued an official letter on his behalf Sunday, but the security services told the embassy they "don't know who he is or where he is."
Rizk recently held screenings in various Egyptian towns of a documentary he and co-producer Julie Norman made about the life of Palestinians living under occupation.
"[His arrest) probably has to do with the documentary," said his sister, who added that he had just started showing it this past month in Tanta and activist settings.
Rizk's parents have filed a complaint with the General Prosecutor at Cairo's High Court.
Rizk and a group of 14 other activists were on their way back from a Palestinian awareness demonstration, part of the "To Gaza" campaign he had been involved in organizing, when they were detained for several hours by the police without explanation.
The police singled Rizk out by name from the group, his sister Jeannette Rizk told AlArabiya.net.
At the Abu Zabal police station in Qalyoubia, north of Cairo, lawyers from the Hisham Mubarak Law Center (HMLC) and the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression accompanied Rizk, the English-langauge Daily News Egypt reported Sunday, but at about 11 p.m. he was smuggled out of the station and his whereabouts remain unknown.
"So far nothing has happened, we are still waiting," said Rizk. "This morning we were able to locate him, in a certain area, but we don't know what prison he is being held in."
Police also arrested 56 people during two separate Gaza rallies organized by the opposition Muslim Brotherhood Friday in the northern Nasr City suburb of Cairo, according to a statement by the group.
Brotherhood MPs have lashed out at the government's decision to close the Rafah border crossing Thursday, refusing even to allow humanitarian and emergency aid access to the strip.
Egypt, which has played a mediating role in truce negotiations between Israel and Hamas, has drawn fire from activists for repeatedly closing the border and not doing enough to aid Palestinians in the wake of the 22-day Israeli offensive that killed 1,300 ad caused billions of dollars of damage.
Authorities have attempted to muffle dissent and criticism of its policies toward Gaza by restricting demonstrations and cracking down on protesters.
Brotherhood members still jailed
The whereabouts of at least 70 arrested Muslim Brotherhood members were also unknown Sunday and Egyptian authorities had only confirmed the arrests of 40 people detained in Cairo.
The group was not aware that any formal charges had been filed nor had their families been notified, Mahmoud Ezzat, secretary general of the Muslim Brotherhood, told the Daily News.
"The least of their rights has not been granted," said Ezzat.