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Freed German-Egyptian blogger, Philip Rizk interrogated for 4 days, handcuffed and blindfolded

By Paul Schemm

Anti-War, February 19, 2009

The rules were simple: Don't touch the blindfold. The handcuffs stay on.
Speak only when spoken to and then only in a low voice.

Newly released German-Egyptian activist Philip Rizk said Thursday that
he was interrogated by Egypt's State Security for four days, accused of
being everything from an Israeli spy to a gunrunner for the militant
group Hamas.

Rizk was arrested by security officers last Friday after participating
in a small march outside Cairo calling for an end to the blockade of the
Gaza Strip a closure imposed by Egypt and Israel after Hamas
gunmen seized control of the Palestinian territory in June 2007.

Rizk was held in solitary confinement for four days while friends,
family and German diplomats inquired about his whereabouts and the
reasons for his detention. Then he was abruptly dropped off at his
apartment before dawn Wednesday.

His detention reflects Egypt's increasing sensitivity over any criticism
of its policies on Gaza and Hamas. Hundreds of members of the opposition
Muslim Brotherhood have been jailed, along with a half dozen young vocal
bloggers like Rizk who put their criticism online.

Egypt has made no official comment on Rizk's detention, and he was never

Rizk called himself lucky because he was held only a few days and wasn't
hurt, ascribing that to his dual nationality and a spirited campaign for
his release conducted by friends. Human rights groups allege that
torture, including sexual abuse, is commonplace for Egypt's
approximately 18,000 political prisoners.

"What happened for a period of four days is that I did nothing much more
than answer questions while being interrogated, or sleeping, or trying
to sleep," the 27-year-old Rizk told reporters gathered on his balcony
in a leafy suburb Thursday, his birthday.

"I was blindfolded the entire time, was wearing handcuffs the entire
time except for a few occasions," usually during questioning, he said.
He added that he was allowed only one shower.

Rizk said two men questioned him repeatedly about his life, his friends
and acquaintances, and his activities. When his answers displeased them,
they would replace the handcuffs and make him stand, he said.

"Everything in your head, we want to take it out," he quoted one
interrogator as telling him.

Rather than physical abuse, "it was more the threats of what could
happen to me if I were not to say the truth," Rizk said.

"I heard sounds of things going on around me," including screams, he
said. "I don't know if they were recordings or they were actually taking
place people being tortured."

Rizk said his questioners accused him of spying for Israel and then of
dealing weapons to Israel's staunch enemy, Hamas.
Until his detention, Rizk operated a blog highlighting the plight of
Palestinians called Tabula Gaza and was a graduate student in Middle
East studies at the American University in Cairo.

He said that while he was in custody security officers went to his
apartment and took his computers, cameras, portable hard drives and the
research notes for his master's thesis. They also broke into e-mail
accounts and read all his mail, he said.
"They've taken my blog down which I've worked on since 2006. They have
more control over parts of my life than I do. This is a horrible
feeling. It took some time to sink in," Rizk said.\





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