-Taken from the Guardian
-Cairo - April 2010
The whereabouts of an Egyptian publisher who recently released a book lauding former UN nuclear watchdog Mohamed ElBaradei remained unknown last night, after his kidnap by security officials on Saturday morning.
The arrest and disappearance of Ahmed Mahanna has fuelled fears among opposition activists that the government is stepping up its crackdown on dissenters as ElBaradei's campaign for political reform gathers momentum.
"We're fearful for the safety of all the young supporters who are campaigning for genuine democracy," said Alaa al-Aswany, the bestselling author of The Yacoubian Building who has backed ElBaradei's call for change. "Those that are famous are in a position to defend themselves against the regime, but ordinary people are open to being victimised by the government."
ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace prize winner who has emerged as an unlikely challenger to the 28-year rule of President Hosni Mubarak, has spent the last few days ramping up his public appearances after an interview with the Guardian last week in which he called on the west to end its support for Egypt's "sham" democracy and other oppressive Arab regimes.
The 67-year-old used his online Twitter feed to condemn Mahanna's incarceration, claiming "the detention of a publisher of a book about me and my ideas of reform shows a repressive regime afraid of its own shadow." Mahanna, who runs the Dawan publishing house and also works as a blogger, published a book last month by Egyptian journalist Kamal Gebrayal entitled ElBaradei and the Dream of the Green Revolution.
According to the Arabic Network of Human Rights Information (ANHRI), Mahanna's house was raided by security forces at dawn on Saturday. The publisher has not been traced, but an Egyptian official confirmed to local media that he had been placed under arrest and that copies of the book were being confiscated. "The housebreaking and arrest of a publisher for a book about ElBaradei ... clearly shows the intention of the government to gag all dissenting voices," said ANHRI in a statement on Saturday.
ElBaradei has whipped up a media storm since his return to Cairo in February thanks to his highly public criticisms of the ruling NDP party and repeated demands for a "constitutional revolution" in one of the region's most stagnant political landscapes.
On Friday hundreds of supporters flocked onto the streets in the Nile Delta town of Mansoura, where ElBaradei launched the first stage of a national tour designed to spread his message of change.
"What I saw today doesn't need words and it reveals an overwhelming and burning desire for change among the Egyptian people," he announced to cheering crowds. "We are all partners in change, which won't take place until each one of you feels that he is responsible for change."
UPDATE: Ahmed Mahanna has now been released - details here