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Thursday, February 12, 2009

German-Egyptian student arrested in Egypt

By KATARINA KRATOVAC

CAIRO (AP) — German diplomats pushed Egyptian authorities Monday to explain why a German-Egyptian student was arrested and where he was being held, after he took part in a march in support of Palestinians in Gaza.

Philip Rizk also contributed to a blog about the Gaza Strip that included postings critical of the three-week Israeli offensive against Gaza's Hamas rulers.

Egyptian police confirmed the Friday arrest of Rizk, a 26-year-old graduate student of Middle Eastern studies at the American University in Cairo, but provided no details. He was arrested after the Palestinian solidarity march in Qalyubia, north of Cairo.

Some of the postings lambasted Egypt for allowing only a few wounded Palestinians in for medical treatment. Cairo has come under considerable criticism for not opening its border to more aid shipments during the Gaza offensive.

Police spent three hours searching Rizk's family home in a pre-dawn raid Monday, checking books and documents but seizing nothing, his sister Jeanette Rizk said. An official of the German Embassy in Cairo was present during the raid at the request of Rizk's family, a spokeswoman for the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin said.

"We are working with the Egyptian authorities to reach an explanation of why he would have been arrested and where he is being held," said the spokeswoman, who insisted on anonymity, citing government policy.

A security official told The Associated Press that authorities had ordered Rizk's release but that the order had not been implemented. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

The International Federation for Human Rights urged Egypt to disclose Rizk's location and release him immediately if no criminal allegations could be proven against him.

The Paris-based network said it was concerned about the "blatant disregard" for legal and judicial procedures during Rizk's arrest.

Many of those who took part in the rally were interrogated, the rights group said in a statement, but "only Rizk was abducted, with no formal charges, and taken away to an undisclosed location by state security officials."

The group also said Rizk's family in Egypt had been harassed by armed and plain-clothed police during the search of their home. The police did not respond to those allegations.

Source: Associated Press Writer Patrick McGroarty in Berlin contributed to this report.

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