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Egypt re-arrests Alexandria activist as 'national dialogue' kicks off

Aya Kamal el-Din was detained from her home on Sunday and appeared at a Cairo police station days later, Egyptian lawyer says
Egyptian graduate Aya Kamel El-Din was reportedly arrested on Sunday for the third time from her home in Alexandria (Social media)

Egyptian authorities have re-arrested a young activist for the third time, calling into question the government’s newly launched "national dialogue" political initiative. 

Aya Kamal el-Din was initially arrested in 2013 among a group known as “The girls of seven in the morning” and give a seven-year suspended jail sentence for participating in a protest in support of Mohamed Morsi, the first democratically elected president of Egypt who was ousted in a military coup.

She was arrested again in 2020 following a Facebook post criticising the military for its handling of personal protective equipment during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Egyptian lawyer Mahienour El-Massry confirmed that el-Din was arrested for a third time on Sunday from her home in Alexandria.

“[Aya] was released from prison about a year and a half ago due to her deteriorating health condition. She suffers from severe asthma,” Massry said on Twitter

"Let the sick girl continue her life in peace."

The lawyer later said that Kamal el-Din appeared at a police station in Cairo on Tuesday. 

'Room for all of us'

The arrest comes as the government launched its national dialogue initiative on Tuesday, in an apparent attempt to bring the country together and ensure that different regions, social classes and political opinions are represented. 

“There is room for all of us in the nation… differences in opinion do not corrupt the nation’s cause,” President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said last month during the announcement of the initiative. 

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Since Sisi ousted Morsi in a military coup in 2013, more than 60,000 political detainees have been imprisoned across Egypt, including former MPs, journalists and activists. 

Reacting to the detainment of Kamal el-Din, Egyptian journalist Rasha Azab tweeted: “Arrests continue before the planned national dialogue.” 

Another Egyptian social media user sarcastically tweeted that Kamal el-Din’s re-arrest was “clearing the way for the national dialogue”. 

The new initiative is being coordinated by Diaa Rashwan, head of the Egyptian Journalists' Syndicate, and will include some opposition parties and youth groups. 

Critics have dismissed the dialogue as an attempt to mitigate western criticism of Egypt’s human rights record, with little detail about what tangible steps would be taken to end political repression. 

Kamal El-Din's arrest followed news that three detainees in Egypt's prisons had died in since 1 July, highlighting the harsh conditions inside the country’s detention centres, according to advocacy organisation Committee for Justice (CFJ) on Tuesday.