US raises 'outrageous' detention of journalist with Egypt

Washington (AFP) –


A senior US official said Tuesday he had asked Egypt to free blogger and journalist Esraa Abdel Fattah, calling her arrest in a major sweep against dissent "outrageous."

David Schenker, the assistant secretary of state for the Middle East, told Congress that he raised Abdel Fattah's case in a meeting last week with Egypt's ambassador to Washington.

"I've met her several times. I think it's outrageous," Schenker said of the blogger's arrest.

"This is something that is very important to the administration. We talk about it," he told a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee.

He reiterated a US call for Egypt to allow peaceful demonstrations after authorities rounded up thousands who have defied a ban on protests in one of the biggest affronts to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's rule.

Abdel Fattah, 41, is best known for creating a Facebook page in support of striking workers, which turned into a political movement that helped bring down long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Fellow activist Mohammad Salah said that plainclothes officers took the two of them away in cars earlier this month, leaving him on a highway after blindfolding and beating him.

Salah said that officers beat Abdel Fattah, choking her and tying her up to the wall for hours as they physically forced her to enter the passcode for her mobile telephone.

Despite Schenker's statement on rights, President Donald Trump has closely allied himself with Sisi, a general who toppled a democratically elected Islamist in 2012.

Schenker praised what he called improvements in Sisi's campaign to crush Islamist militants in the Sinai, saying Egypt had taken US advice that "counter-terrorism requires more than just a military component."