Human Rights Watch calls for the release of Egyptian doctor

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday called for the release of an Egyptian doctor, arrested in January, who had been investigating prison health care for the country's medical union.

Taher Mokhtar, as well as two roommates arrested along with him when police raided their central Cairo apartment, is accused of planning violent protests to overthrow the government and intimidate and terrorize citizens, the New York-based rights group said.

"The allegations appear to stem from Mokhtar's political activism – including organizing doctors' strikes and protesting for police accountability – and his work documenting medical neglect in Egypt's detention facilities," according to the HRW statement.

The group's call for his release comes amid rising tensions between authorities and the country's professional unions after security forces raided the Egyptian Journalists' Syndicate headquarters in central Cairo on Sunday night in order to arrest two journalists.

Security forces blocked off the street around the syndicate building on Tuesday ahead of a planned press conference and protest, allowing entry only to syndicate members.

Police prevented officials of the medical and engineering unions from visiting to express their support, the vice president of the Egyptian Medical Syndicate, Mona Mina, said.

Members of the syndicate draped a black banner from the building with the words "Journalism is not a crime," news site al-Bedaiah reported.

The Journalists Syndicate has demanded the sacking of Interior Minister Magdi Abdul-Ghaffar and has called a general assembly of its members for Wednesday.

The Interior Ministry denied that its forces had "stormed" the syndicate building and said that the journalists had given themselves up peacefully when police informed them of their arrest warrants.

State newspaper al-Ahram, in an unusual show of dissent, on Tuesday described the raid as "shameful behaviour" in an unsigned editorial and said that the sacking of Abdul-Ghaffar was "an expected step."

The "mistakes" of the Interior Ministry "will not succeed in their vile aim of shutting mouths and stifling the freedom of opinion and expression," according to the editorial.

Egyptian authorities have clamped down on civil liberties since President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, then head of the armed forces, ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in 2013.

Last update: Tue, 03/05/2016 - 20:59

More from World

Seoul: Failed rocket test shows "limits" of North Korean technology

A failed rocket test carried out by North Korea on Thursday demonstrates the "limits" of the communist country's...

NATO fears Russian aircraft carrier could be deployed against Aleppo

NATO fears that a Russian aircraft carrier group headed for the eastern Mediterranean Sea could be used to "increase...

Trump vows to "totally accept" election result if he wins

Republican candidate Donald Trump said Thursday he would accept the results of the US presidential election if he...

Carter: North Korea would face US military might for nuclear attack

The US would respond with the "full spectrum of American military might" if North Korea were to undertake a nuclear...

Somalia releases Al Jazeera reporters arrested for "one-sided story"

Al Jazeera journalists arrested in Somalia on suspicion of researching for a "one-sided story" in support of radical...