CAIRO - Egypt's government is using a secretive security agency responsible for investigating national security threats to detain peaceful protesters, journalists and critics on false charges without trial, Amnesty International has said in a new report.
The 60-page publication released on Wednesday detailed how Egypt's Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) operates as a "sinister tool of repression", becoming increasingly central to President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's sweeping crackdown on dissent.
"In Egypt today, the Supreme State Security Prosecution has stretched the definition of 'terrorism' to encompass peaceful protests, social media posts and legitimate political activities," said Philip Luther, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa director.
"The SSSP has become a central tool of repression whose primary goal appears to be arbitrarily detaining and intimidating critics, all in the name of counterterrorism," Luther said.
The group's damning report documents the cases of scores of human rights defenders and critics of the government who have been brought before the SSSP between 2013 - when el-Sisi seized power in a military coup - and 2019.
It has based its conclusions on more than 100 interviews and reviews of official court and police documents, medical records and videos as well as reports by NGOs and United Nations agencies.
Of the 138 highlighted cases, Amnesty said 56 individuals were arrested for participating in protests or for statements they made on social media, while 76 were arrested based on their political or human rights activities or background, and six were accused of involvement in incidents of violence.
The report also highlights the case of Al Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein, who has been imprisoned without any formal charges in Egypt for more than 1,000 days.
Hussein, an Egyptian national who works for the Al Jazeera Arabic television channel in Qatar, was arrested on arrival in Egypt on December 20, 2016, while on a personal visit to see his family.(FA)