New arrest in ongoing crackdown on foundation for street children
Street children in Egypt - YOUM7 (Archive)
By AMIRA EL-FEKKI

CAIRO: Another woman from The Beladi Foundation for street children has been arrested, adding to a case in which its Egyptian-American founder has been accused of politically exploiting children, her lawyer told The Cairo Post on Thursday.

Sameh Samir, a lawyer at the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, is handling the case of Zeinab Ramadan, who was arrested Wednesday during a visit to children who were sent to an orphanage in Dar El-Salam following a police raid on the foundation that was their home.

“Ramadan is to be detained for four days pending investigations, to be renewed on Sunday, after prosecution investigations on Saturday,” Samir wrote on his Facebook page Thursday.

Samir told The Cairo Post that Ramadan was asked by one of the children’s mothers to accompany her on a visit to her son. Once she arrived to the orphanage, arguments erupted between Ramadan and the security men who refused to let her inside, he said. They called the police, claiming she was trying to influence the children to amend their testimonies.

The children had appeared in a televised interview and stated they were being paid to engage in violent acts in protests.

Journalist and activist Hala Mostafa also shared the story on her account, saying that the police told Ramadan, “Aren’t you a supporter of Jan. 25? Then we will show you,” adding that the officers asked her who she was going to elect, and began treating her in an unacceptable manner after she replied that she was boycotting the elections.

Fathi Farid, the coordinator of the “I Saw Harassment” initiative, denounced Ramadan’s arrest in statements to The Cairo Post on Thursday. When asked about Ramadan’s political activities, Farid denied that she has had any.

“Zeinab was working with our initiative, and participating in a number of other social activities. She was part of the known mass protests that erupted over the past years, but was never a political activist or affiliated with any political entity or movement,” Farid said.

Both Farid and Samir said it was not logical to accuse Ramadan in the same way as others in the foundation case because prior to her arrest her name was not featured in the case.

On May 4, security forces arrested Aya Hegazy and her husband Mohamed Hussanein, founders of The Beladi Foundation, which supported street children by providing them a home and a rehabilitation center, on charges of sexually and politically exploiting the children.

The arrest of Zeinab added to the anger sparked by Hegazy’s arrest, particularly since Hegazy was well known at the American University in Cairo, where she was preparing her thesis on street children.

Activists launched a Facebook campaign titled “Save The Beladi Foundation” on May 8, calling for help in releasing the defendants, and accusing the police of fabricating charges.

During the investigation, the founders were confronted about the illegal status of their organization, responding that the process for legalizing their papers was ongoing, which authorities denied.

According to an account published by the foundation, they had presented documents to the Ministry of Social Solidarity, which sent officials to inspect the location according to legal procedures, twice, because the foundation switched locations.

But Samir said the real reason behind the crackdown on Beladi was the government’s battle against civil society, and he said he is expecting more incidents to occur in the coming period.

“The police said Ramadan was among the founders, but denied that her name had been previously mentioned in the case, and there are no witnesses against her. Are you telling me they just found out by coincidence that she was working with the foundation?” he said.

Ramadan had close ties to the foundation due to a number of social activities she was engaged in.

“The government is telling you that if you do good deeds in the society, you will be arrested and accused with fake charges. The regime thinks charity work is terrorism and betrayal to the nation,” Mostafa posted on Thursday.

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