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Cairo in June 8, 2009

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) said today that State Security police insists on violating the right to privacy, and is keen to spy on Internet users in Egypt, searching for individuals who exercise their right to express their political views online peacefully.

After the state security officers forced the owners of Internet cafes to register the names and identity numbers of those who visit the cafes frequently, now they ask owners of the cafes to spy on their customers and know which websites they browse and report to the police on anyone who browses the “political” websites.

“Yesterday, security forces raided an Internet cafe in Agouza district, and asked for the visitors’ registration book with all details on visitors from the beginning of the café’s work in January 16, 2009, although the owners had leased it in May 25 and opened the place for clients in June 5″, ANHRI said. The network added that when the owner of the place told police that there are no books; they had taken his ID card and the license of the café. Moreover they confiscated the equipments of internet service, and took him along to the Security Directorate in Giza. There he was forced to sign a minute charging him of practicing ‘an activity without a license”

A number of lawyers in the Arabic Network attended the official investigation and the Prosecutor decided to release the internet café owner without any bail. But when the lawyers submitted a request to receive the confiscated equipments, the prosecution decided to keep it in the warehouse of the police station in connection with the case.

When the cafe owner and the café manager received their license and ID cards from the State Security an officer warned them and ordered to write down the names, addresses and ID card number of each visitor, and monitor any person who browses “Terrorist or political” websites and also report on these persons immediately. The officer gave them his personal phone number to report immediately on any person they notice browsing such website. He also threatened to close the cafe, in the case they did not report on any one during the coming month. The officer told them; “it is impossible that no one from your visitors will browse such websites for a whole month”

ANHRI expresses its deep condemnation of the practice of the State Security of monitoring and punishing any citizen who seeks expressing his political views peacefully. At the same time, the network condemns threatening the owners of Internet cafes and forcing them to spy on the clients. As a result of that the network is demanding the Interior Minister to issue orders to the ministry’s men to stop such practices, which violate the right to privacy and the right of expression, in violation of Egyptian law, and international human rights covenants. They must also refrain from forcing the owners of Internet cafes to register the names and ID cards numbers of visitors. ANHRI also calls the ministry to stop considering browsing and interacting with the political websites as a crime to be punished for.