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Egyptian publisher of reform book arrested

By Amir Ahmed, CNN
  • Mahanna had published book identifying former IAEA chief ElBaradei as reform leader
  • Writer-friend of Mahanna: Security official said Mahanna would be released Sunday
  • No info available about Mahanna's detainment, Interior Ministry spokesman says
  • Former IAEA chief ElBaradei recently formed group, National Association for Change

(CNN) -- An Egyptian publisher who recently released a book calling for political change was arrested at his Cairo home during the weekend, and copies of the book, his computer and manuscripts were confiscated, friends and family said.

Ahmed Mahanna, director of publication and distribution for Dar Dawwin publishing, was detained Saturday "without explanation," a friend told CNN.

"Police did not mention any charges or reason for the arrest ... and his two lawyers were denied access to him," writer Mohamed Elgazaly said.

Mahanna published a book last month titled "ElBaradei and the Dream of a Green Revolution" by Kamal Gabrial. The book places the responsibility of political reform in the country on Mohammed ElBaradei, former chief of the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency, who returned to Egypt earlier this year.

No information was available about Mahanna's detainment, a spokesman at Egypt's Interior Ministry told CNN.

Furthermore, no official statement was released on state-run media Saturday to confirm Mahanna's arrest, but friends who gathered late Saturday night outside Cairo's al-Amiriya police station were told by security personnel that Mahanna was still detained though his whereabouts were unknown.

Early Sunday morning, Elgazaly said an unidentified security official contacted him, assuring that Mahanna would be released Sunday afternoon.

It clearly shows the intention of the government to gag all dissenting voices...
--Arabic Network for Human Rights Information

In a statement released Saturday, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) denounced Egyptian security officers for the detention "in such ambiguous way without giving reasons or declaring charges is a serious violation of freedom of opinion and expression."

"It clearly shows the intention of the government to gag all dissenting voices as well as those supporting ElBaradei and the National Assembly of Change," the ANHRI statement added.

Many Egyptians have called for ElBaradei to run for presidential elections in 2011. He has recently said he will run if he is guaranteed free and fair elections and the right to run as an independent candidate. Doing so would require a reform to the existing Egyptian constitution, which places restrictions on independents.

Last week, ElBaradei issued a video address via Facebook urging Egyptians to join his newly formed group, the National Association for Change.

Journalist Salma Abdelaziz contributed to this report.