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UPDATED: Egyptian bloggers detained

Kevin Anderson | 13:46 UK time, Monday, 8 May 2006

On Sunday, I was in English countryside when I got a text message from a blogger I have interviewed in Egypt.

Hi Kevin, this is Amr from Egypt. If you're following the arrests on the background of the judiciary independence issue, there are about 50 detained, and 4 of those are bloggers. Today's batch included Alaa Seif.

We have spoken to Alaa on World Have Your Say. We're going to try to find out what happened.

Amr has agreed to join us on air and will help explain events. There is already a lot of talk online about this in part because Alaa and his wife Manal are so active in the Egyptian blogosphere. Here is the post announcing Alaa's detention, and you can see from the comments some of the global messages of support.

Their site, Manal and Alaa's Bit Bucket, is a listing of many Egyptian blogs. Amr sent me an e-mail with a quick roundup of other bloggers' accounts.

The arrests came during a sit-in, and some background on the protest is here on Global Voices:

The latest attacks of Egyptian authorities rose to squash public support for the demands of Egyptian Judges for complete independence of the judiciary authority, which had the executive authorities interfering with its work for decades to forge elections, detain opposition leaders and punish voices that rise against decades of ruling under emergency law.

Amr pointed me to some more background on the issue on this weblog.

As Haitham Sabbah, Middle East editor of Global Voices says of Manal and Alaa:

Alaa is one of the most active people working to support the blogosphere in Egypt. Coupled with his wife Manal, their “Bit Bucket“, is the aggregator collecting almost all Egyptian bloggers. He won the special Reporters Without Borders - DW Best of Blogs award in 2005 and was previously interviewed on Global Voices. He is one of the people that the Egyptian blogosphere success and latest wide spreading is indebted to.

Other Egyptian bloggers includind the writer of Rantings of an Egyptian Sandmonkey have written posts in protest.

I contacted the Egyptian Embassy here in London to give them a chance to respond. I called around 4 pm, and their press secretary had already gone home for the day. They told me ring the ambassador's office, and he was not available to join the programme or to make a statement.

UPDATE: Amr sent me an e-mail this morning.

This is starting to take its own momentum. Now we have a Free Alaa blog, an initiative by Arab bloggers:

Here's a link to the blog.

And as I was looking at the blog, I saw this post from Manal Hassan, Alaa's wife who joined our programme last night:

Waking up is actually admiting that he is not there..very hard

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