CAIRO, (AP) – Kuwaiti forces have arrested and deported supporters of the prominent Egyptian opposition figure Mohammed ElBaradei, said their colleagues and a human rights group on Sunday.
At least 21 Egyptian expatriates have been deported so far, said George Ishaq of the Association of Change Movement which is urging the former U.N. nuclear chief to run for president in 2011.
Around another 20 Egyptians were still being detained in Kuwait said Ishaq, citing colleagues in Kuwait. There was no immediate comment to The Associated Press by Egyptian or Kuwait government officials.
It is the first time in years that Kuwait has deported groups of expatriate residents for political activity. Human Rights Watch quoted Kuwait’s Interior Minister Sheik Jaber al-Khaled al-Sabah as saying the Egyptians defied a ban on foreigners assembling without permission and engaged in slander by criticizing the Egyptian president.
“This makes the response of the Kuwaiti authorities even more concerning,” said Heba Morayef of HRW. “(They) want to send a strong signal that they won’t allow any meetings of this kind.”
ElBaradei has been coy on whether he will run in upcoming elections, but has so far garnered support of prominent opposition figures for his campaign to reform the constitution and expand political participation.
According to HRW, three Egyptian citizens were arrested after they attended a meeting in support of ElBaradei on April 8. Others were detained the following day when they gathered outside a supermarket to discuss the arrests.
The wife of one of the deported Egyptian residents, Mohammed al-Farghally told the rights group that her husband did not return after attending a small meeting of ElBaradei supporters at a local cafe.
Amira al-Farghally said later that evening four men in civilian dress escorted her handcuffed husband home, where they seized T-shirts picturing ElBaradei and Egyptian flags. He was sent back to Egypt.
Egyptian authorities have carried out similar crackdowns against those opposing the government.