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The New Arab

Egypt arrests former diplomat over call for referendum on Sisi

Masoum Marzouk called for a "popular conference" in Tahrir Square [Twitter]

Date of publication: 23 August, 2018

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Egyptian authorities have arrested a former diplomat who recently called for a referendum on President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's government, his lawyer has said.

Egyptian authorities have arrested a former diplomat who recently called for a referendum on President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's government, his lawyer has said.

Rights lawyer Khaled Ali announced the arrest of Masoum Marzouk on Thursday in an online statement, amid an apparent new crackdown on dissent.

"Marzouk's family have told me a large police force surrounded their home and arrested him and taken him to an unknown location," Ali said on Facebook.

The lawyer also said police arrested economist Raed Salama on Thursday in a separate operation.

The New Arab's Arabic-language service reported that left-wing activist Yahya al-Qazzaz was also detained on Thursday. A growing number of activists have been detained in Egypt in recent months.

Earlier this month, Marzouk called for the referendum and proposed a roadmap for a political transition if Egyptians voted against the government.

He said if the government failed to respond positively to the initiative he would hold a "popular conference" in Cairo's Tahrir Square - the epicenter of the 2011 uprising - on August 31.

Sisi was re-elected earlier this year in a vote in which all potentially serious competitors were arrested or pressured into withdrawing.

The government has since been ruling with an iron fist, banning unauthorised protests and jailing thousands of people since 2013 in a massive crackdown on dissent.

Marzouk's announcement sparked social media debate, with his name trending on Twitter alongside messages in support of the referendum.

The Arabic-language hashtag #SisiLeave gained traction this summer after steep price hikes of fuel, water and electricity.

The austerity measures, which are designed to overhaul the economy, have hit poorest Egyptians hardest.

Sisi has said he was "upset" over the posts, which has "deemed inappropriate".

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