Egypt arrests 13 on anniversary of 2013 ‘Rabaa massacre’

Egyptian police have arrested 13 alleged Muslim Brotherhood members, accusing them of inciting protests marking the fifth anniversary of the so-called Rabaa massacre.

The Interior Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that six people were arrested in a Cairo suburb, including three who had been sentenced in absentia to 10 to 15 years on terror charges.

They will now face a re-trial.

The other seven were detained northwest of the capital.

WATCH: Egypt marks five years since ‘Rabaa massacre’

“We received information that they had been planning to hold meetings … with the aim of provoking citizens to mark the fifth anniversary by staging demonstrations and sowing chaos,” the ministry statement read.

On August 14, 2013, police dispersed two mass sit-ins by supporters of President Mohammed Morsi, who had been overthrown by the military earlier that summer.

Security forces killed more than 600 people in what is known as the Rabaa massacre in a matter of hours.

Egypt has since detained thousands, accusing them of terrorism. Rights groups say those jailed are critics of the government.

Previous rallies marking the Rabaa killings have met fierce resistance by Egyptian authorities. 

In a widely criticised mass trial, Egypt sentenced hundreds of alleged supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood to death – “the biggest mass sentence given in modern Egyptian history”, according to Amnesty International.

The movement, which is Egypt’s oldest, most influential Islamist group, was also banned and had its assets seized before being declared a “terrorist organisation” by the government.

The final ruling for the trial, involving 739 people facing a death penalty, was recently postponed due to “security concerns”. 

Egypt’s security forces maintain some of the demonstrators were armed and there were “terrorists” among the crowds.

Despite evidence implicating the Egyptian army and police in killing protesters, no one has been brought to trial and the Egyptian government has yet to transparently investigate the killings.

The government-appointed National Council of Human Rights produced a report on the events, but its findings are at odds with witness accounts and human rights activists. 

Sahar Aziz, a law professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey, told Al Jazeera that the events from five years ago are seldom discussed in the Egyptian media and that anyone who addresses them risks being arrested.

“The state has become much more of a police and surveillance state. Most Egyptians have completely given up on trying to defend the rights of the Rabaa victims, much less the rights of civil society, human rights activists and others who are languishing in jail,” Aziz said.

“In fact, the state is very successfully creating a chilling environment for anyone who questions its legitimacy, [they] could be disappeared, arrested and indefinitely detained under the law where their detention can be renewed 15 days at a time after two years even without charge.” 

In July, an Egyptian court sentenced 75 people to death for participating in the 2013 protests.

Since his removal, Morsi has been tried in several different cases. In April 2015, he was sentenced to 20 years on charges of ordering the arrest and torture of protesters who had rallied outside the presidential palace in 2012.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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