Egypt detains women who called for prisoner release amid coronavirus, lawyer says

Four women detained by Egyptian security forces after demonstrating in central Cairo for the release of prisoners they said may be at risk from the coronavirus were freed late on Thursday, a relative of one of the women said.

The four women, including a prominent novelist and a professor, were detained by security forces on Wednesday, a lawyer and the relative said.

They were held for questioning on charges including incitement to organize a demonstration and spreading false news, the relative, Sanaa Seif, told Reuters. Seif posted the news of the four women’s release on social media.

An Interior Ministry spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment and there was no statement from prosecutors.

Also on Thursday, state TV and a judicial source reported that 15 members of political movements had been ordered released from jail.

The total number of inmates in Egypt is unclear, but tens of thousands have been detained in a broad crackdown on political opposition since then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted the Muslim Brotherhood from power in 2013.

Egypt has reported 256 confirmed coronavirus cases, including seven deaths. With the spread of the outbreak, rights groups and activists have campaigned for the release of political, sick and elderly prisoners, citing what they describe as poor conditions, lack of healthcare and overcrowding in prisons.