Egypt: Pro-democracy activist charged - East Valley Tribune: Nation / World

Egypt: Pro-democracy activist charged

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Posted: Thursday, April 10, 2008 10:12 pm | Updated: 11:42 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

CAIRO, Egypt - Prosecutors charged a key leader of Egypt's main pro-democracy group on Thursday with inciting unrest and violence, officials said, four days after thousands stayed home from work and school as part of a nationwide strike.

George Ishaq, co-founder of the opposition group Kifaya, was arrested Wednesday night in a raid on his home in downtown Cairo.

Another of the group's founders, Abdel-Halim Qandil, said the case against Ishaq is part of a government crackdown on Kifaya in retaliation for Sunday's labor strike where thousands of Egyptians skipped school and work and hundreds marched at rallies to protest high food prices.

The demonstrations were organized by several opposition groups, including Kifaya, which means "Enough" in Arabic.

The nationwide strike was the first major attempt by such groups to turn the past year's scattered labor unrest into a wider political protest against President Hosni Mubarak and his ruling party.

Kifaya has often spearheaded demonstrations against Mubarak's U.S.-backed government since late 2004.

A document from the state prosecutor's office, where Ishaq was questioned, accused Sunday's protesters of "assaulting people, harming public property and defying public authority using violent means."

The document also outlined charges against Ishaq. It was given to his lawyers, who were appointed by the prominent Cairo human rights group, the Hisham Mubarak Law Center.

The center released excerpts of the document on Thursday, and its contents were confirmed by a security official at the prosecutor's office, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to media.

The Egyptian government holds Ishaq partly responsible for the nationwide strike, which created "chaos, prevented state employees from performing their duties, disrupted traffic and endangered the lives of many," the document said.

Qandil said the charges were invented largely to "frame the movement as a banned group."

Kifaya, which began as a fragile coalition of leftist Marxists, pan-Arab nationalists, Islamists and secular liberals, was the first street movement to openly shout the slogan: "Down with Mubarak."

But the once-energetic group has been convulsed more recently by internal feuds.

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