The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Opposition writer roughed up

A prominent columnist for the Egyptian opposition weekly Al Arabi (an organ of the Nasserist party) was kidnapped by security services, taken to the desert outside Cairo, stripped and beaten. Abdel Halim Kandil, who is a prominent columnist writing in one of the most vocal anti-regime publication in Egypt, told: reporters of his ordeal today at the Press Syndicate:

Abdelhalim Kandil's newspaper, the weekly al-Arabi, condemned the attack and said it suspected the government of being behind the assault and a wider campaign of intimidation.

Kandil said he was nabbed in his Cairo neighbourhood in the middle of the night as he was returning from the traditional meal taken by Muslims during Ramadan before fasting for the day.

He was gagged and blindfolded, beaten up and stripped before being dumped on the main motorway between Cairo and Suez, he said, adding that his attackers told him to "stop talking about important people".

Although that story does not make it clear, I heard from a reporter who was at the press conference and it's certain this was not just a random kidnapping but probably involved state security goons.And if that's so, press freedom and democracy in general just took a nose-dive in Egypt. Kandil, who wrote inflammatory pieces about the regime his Al Arabi -- making him one of the most-read writers in the country -- was also a signotory to the recent petition asking Mubarak not to run again. This could be a signal to all journalists to quiet down as next year's elections and presidential referendum approach.

Update: Here is another, better article on what happened.