CAIRO, (Reuters) – Egyptian police held a group of about 25 academics for five hours on Friday and then turned them away from the Nile Delta town of Mahalla el-Kubra, scene of a strike and riots on Sunday and Monday, activists said.
“We are on our way back to Cairo. They (the police) put us on the road and said ‘Direction Cairo, no option’,” said activist Aida Seif al-Dawla, a psychologist among the group.
A police vehicle escorted them away from Mahalla and will accompany them some of the way to Cairo, security sources said.
The academics had wanted to go to Mahalla to show solidarity with the workers at the giant textile factory and visit the families of people injured in clashes with the police.
Reuters photographer Nasser el-Nouri and a photographer from the newspaper al-Fagr, Ahmed Hammad, also spent four hours in a police station on Friday for questioning about their movements and what information they had about the unrest, Nouri said.
Police later released the two photographers and promised to give back cameras and other equipment they had seized, he added.
Two people were killed and more than 100 injured in the riots, which broke out on Sunday after police and plainclothes security prevented a strike at the textile factory, which employs more than 20,000 people.
The workers are demanding higher salaries to compensate for sharp increases in the prices of basic foodstuffs. Local youngsters joined in the protests, attacking the riot police and pulling down a picture of President Hosni Mubarak and the election posters of his ruling party.
The Web site All Headline News said Egyptian police arrested an American photojournalist, James Buck, in Mahalla on Thursday evening. It was not immediately clear if Buck, who has been working for the Oakland Tribune, has been released.