The rights group says the operation targeting relatives of dissidents living abroad appears "to be widespread, organised, and increasing" and that security forces did not show any arrest or search warrants.

Under Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sisi's watch, there has been a crackdown on dissent, rights groups say.
Under Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sisi's watch, there has been a crackdown on dissent, rights groups say. (Reuters)

An international rights group says Egyptian authorities have arrested, raided houses and imposed travel bans against dozens of relatives of dissidents who live abroad, apparently in reprisal for their activism.

Human Rights Watch says on Tuesday it has since 2016 documented 28 cases which include Muslim Brotherhood leader Haytham Abu Khalil and Mohammed Ali, a self-exiled contractor who raised corruption claims against President Abdel Fattah el Sisi.

The cases also include well-known activist Wael Ghonim whose brother, Hazem, was arrested in September after Wael posted videos on Facebook criticising Egyptian security agencies.

Ghonim told the rights group that security forces ransacked his home, taking $28,000 in cash, his family's passports and mobile phones. 

"Authorities banned from traveling or confiscated the passports of 20 relatives of 8 dissidents", the report said. 

Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at HRW, says Egyptian authorities have been “punishing families of opponents abroad” to stifle dissent.

HRW says that in 13 cases, relatives were accused of joining "terrorist" groups and disseminating "false news."

The rights group says the operation appears "to be widespread, organised, and increasing" and that security forces did not show any arrest or search warrants. 

Sisi, first elected in 2014 after, while army chief, leading the 2013 overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi, has overseen a crackdown on dissent ranging from liberal to conservative groups - the most severe in recent memory, rights groups say.

Read the full report here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies