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Screen shot of Wael Ghonim on television in Egypt after his release
For many in Tahrir Square, his presence was why they had come out today. Ghonim, who was released on February 7 by authorities, played a key role in organization demonstrations against the regime before being arrested in late January.
He was seized in the Egyptian capital when he was with tens of thousands of protesters in the Square. Al Jazeera reported Ghonim was "picked up by three plainclothes men on the street, pushed into a car and taken off for interrogation by state security members."
On stage, Ghonim declared, "I've observed that we are all brothers. Yesterday, I met with the minister of interior. He was addressing me as an equal. He said, I got your message. You are the youth of Facebook. You are the youth of Egypt."
The spark Ghonim is providing really is not surprising. Many Egyptians who are part of the revolution were initially moved to action when Khaled Said, a blogger, was beaten to death by police in an internet cafe' in Alexandria in June of 2010.
Bloggers are and have, when they are most effective at stirring people to political or social action, been treated as enemies of the state by police or security forces in Egypts. They have been explicitly targeted by the Mubarak regime.
A cable that was appropriately released on the same day of Ghonim's release details an incident involving the arrest and detention of a group of thirty activists and bloggers on the morning of January 15, 2010. 10CAIRO99 notes the group was on the way to "Naga Hamadi to visit the families of those killed in the January 6 sectarian shootings." The families were Coptic Christians.
The group was released the day after and the cable indicates U.S. officials played a role in ensuring the group was released. Politicians Osama Ghazali Harb of the liberal Democratic Front Party, Kifaya leader Georg Ishaaq and Cairo University professor and opposition leader Mohamed Abul Ghar were among those arrested.
Al-Masry Al-Youm covered the incident reporting that when arrested the group had "cell phones and identification cards taken away from them." It also reported that "Abdel Salam, Mohamed Khaled known by his alias 'Demagh Mak' and human rights activist Paula Abdo -- himself an eyewitness to some of the clashes that occured earlier in Naga Hammadi following the shooting" were among the group detained. Abbas is quoted in the cable saying "police beat and lightly injured" blogger Ahmed Bedawi during the arrests "for no apparent reason."
Prominent Egyptian blogger XXXXXXXXXXXXX, contacted us November 17 to report that YouTube removed from his website two videos exposing police abuses -- one of Sinai bedouin allegedly shot by police and thrown in a garbage dump during the past week's violence (ref A), and the other of a woman being tortured in a police station. XXXXXXXXXXXXX told us that YouTube is also preventing XXXXXXXXXXXX from posting new videos, and asked us for assistance in urging YouTube to re-post his removed videos and reinstate his access to uploading new material. XXXXXXXXXXXXX said XXXXXXXXXXXXXX has tried to contact Google, but has not received a response. In December 2007, DRL and Embassy Cairo worked to convince Google to restore XXXXXXXXXXXXX' YouTube access after a similar incident. We believe that a similar Department intervention with Google representatives could help in restoring XXXXXXXXXXXXX' access again. XXXXXXXXXXXXis an influential blogger and human rights activist, and we want to do everything we can to assist him in exposing police abuse. XXXXXXXXXXXXX' post of a video showing two policemen sodomizing a bus driver was used as the main evidence to convict the officers in November 2007 (ref C).The most interesting part of 08CAIRO2371 is perhaps this section: