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Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah disappeared from police station, says family

Apparent arrest comes as authorities battle wave of protests with sweeping arrest campaign and crackdown on dissent
Egyptian activist and blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah at his home in Cairo on 17 May (AFP)

Prominent Egyptian political activist Alaa Abdel Fattah appears to have been re-arrested from the police station he is forced to spend every night in, his family said on Sunday.

As part of his probation period, the 37-year-old must spend 12 hours every night in a police station in Cairo's Dokki. However he failed to emerge on Sunday morning, according to his family.

Authorities at the police station told Abdel Fattah's relatives he had been taken from his cell to the state security prosecution. His family have not been able to confirm his location.

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Abdel Fattah was one of the leading voices of the 2011 uprising that led to the ousting of longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. He was jailed on charges of protesting without permission in 2013 and was released in March.

The apparent arrest comes amid the largest wave of protests against President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in years.

Sisi's government has led a brutal crackdown on dissenting and opposition voices since coming into power in a 2013 military coup that removed Egypt's first democratically elected leader.

The protests that immediately followed the coup were violently put down by security forces, culminating in a massacre in Cairo's Rabaa al-Adaweya Square, where at least 1,000 demonstrators were killed.

Over 2,200 people, including well-known activists, journalists and lawyers, have been arrested since 20 September, when the protests first erupted over a series of corruption allegations a prominent actor and businessman has levelled against Sisi and other top officials.

Extra precautions

Abdel Fattah, who is a leading voice on the Egyptian left, was originally released in March on the condition that he turns himself in to the local police station in Dokki every night, from 6pm until 6am.

The supplementary penalty that Abdel Fattah, like other political prisoners, is serving while on probation lasts for five years.

Abdel Fattah's family noted in a statement that they have taken extra precautions to see him released from the police station as authorities face down the roiling protests with a campaign of arrests. His mother, Leila Souief, has been going to the Dokki police station every morning for the past week to pick him up.

However, early on Sunday, Souief was stopped from reaching the station’s gates and was told Abdel Fattah was taken by state security officers.

His sister, Mona, wrote in a tweet that Soueif was at first told that Abdel Fattah had freely left the station and the authorities had no information on where he was, before changing their account.

“Until the lawyers see him at the state prosecution, [we consider] Alaa kidnapped by state security, with the assistance of the Dokki police station,” she tweeted.

Egyptian security forces are on a state of high alert as protests spring up across the country.

On Friday, demonstrations calling for the fall of Sisi broke out soon after Friday prayers in several locations across the country - including Luxor, Qena and Sohag - for a second week in a row.

Cairo, the epicentre of protests that toppled Mubarak in 2011, has been on lockdown.

Egyptian police have used tear gas and birdshot to disperse protesters, and witnesses have told Middle East Eye that demonstrators have been badly beaten by security forces.