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Egypt arrests Facebook users on charges of organizing protests

Security forces arrest administrators of 47 Facebook pages ahead of Arab Spring anniversary

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Egypt has arrested the administrators of 47 Facebook pages that it says are operated by the Muslim Brotherhood. The arrests come ahead of the fifth anniversary of the 2011 Arab Spring revolt against Hosni Mubarak, who was overthrown after ruling Egypt for 30 years. Citing a state-run news agency, Egypt's Ahram Online reported yesterday that security forces arrested a man and a woman suspected of operating the Facebook pages, but Reuters reported Thursday that the number of administrators is unknown.

Interior Ministry spokesman Abu Bakr Abdel Karim told Egyptian media yesterday that the suspects are accused of calling for protests ahead of this month's anniversary, "inciting against state institutions and spreading the ideas of the Muslim Brotherhood." Egyptian security forces have cracked down on dissent leading up to the January 25th anniversary, arresting activists and shutting down public gathering places. During the 2011 uprising, many demonstrations were organized through Facebook and Twitter, prompting the government to shut down several services. Ahram reports that three other Facebook users were arrested earlier this month on charges of calling for protests.

The crackdown intensifies.

The Muslim Brotherhood won the largest number of seats in the first parliamentary elections since Muabrak was toppled, but the Islamist party was outlawed and designated as a terrorist group after the army seized power in 2013. Under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt's government has implemented controversial counter-terrorism laws under which anyone convicted of spreading terrorist messages online can face between five and seven years in prison.

"The ministry of interior will continue to stand against these terrorist pages that have long incited violence against state institutions and made fun of the major incidents experienced by the country recently," Abdel Karim told Egyptian radio yesterday.