Egypt In Crisis: Google staff Wael Ghonim is released… heads to protest ground

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Amnesty International: Staff members harassed and abused during

Wael Ghonim, the detained Google Inc. executive has reportedly been  been released.

A close relation told Al Jazeera that  the company’s Middle East  head of marketing has been freed and was heading toward the protest venue.

A brother of Wael Ghonim, who also represents google in North Africa, told the network he was freed Monday and was on his way to Tahrir Square, the center of anti-government protests in Cairo.

Ghonim had traveled to Egypt from his home in Dubai and was believed to have been arrested Jan. 27 after joining in the protests, according to Amnesty International.

Before his arrest, Ghonim announced on his Twitter feed that he had been “brutally beaten up by police people.” Not long before he disappeared, he wrote: “Very worried as it seems that government is planning a war crime tomorrow against people. We are all ready to die.”

Ghonim’s disappearance prompted widespread international outrage.The release of prisoners has been a key demand of opposition representatives who met over the weekend with newly appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman.

Pressmen  humiliation in Egypt


Previous report of his arrest:

Fears continue to grow  over the where-about of a Google staff, who had joined in one of the Egyptian protest whic had last almos thirteen days.

With the whereabout of Wael Ghonim still unknown as at Sunday afternoon, Amnesty International has issued a statement  gfearing Waer might befacing torture.

Egyptian government action in holding him  has given President Mubarak  more minus advantage with Mubarak accused severally of human abuse and iron handedness during the 13 day public insurrection.

Wael Ghonim, Google’s Head of Marketing – Middle East & North Africa (MENA), is missing in Egypt after attending a conference in Cairo last week.

Missing: Wael GhonimBefore his disappearance, Ghonim used Twitter to describe being caught up in the anti-government protests, which have been taking place across the country for more than a week.

In one message, he said he would be attending the Gam’et Dewal protest, and that he intended to head to Tahir Square to ‘feel the pain of millions of my fellow Egyptians’.

Ghonim was last heard of on 27 January, when he said the Egyptian government is planning a war crime against its people. ‘We are ready to die,’ he added.

Ghonim, who is based in Dubai, joined the search giant as a Product & Marketing Manager in 2008, and was promoted to his current role a year ago. Earlier in his career, he served as Marketing & Sales Manager at e-mail solutions provider Gawab.com.

Reports on Al-Jazeera television suggests that Ghonim’s family received a call earlier in the week in the middle of the night, apparently from government officials, telling them Ghonim is ‘being taught a lesson’.

Google, which has temporarily closed its office in Cairo, said in a statement: ‘The safety of our employees is paramount, so if anyone has any information please call the following UK number: +44 20 7031 3008 or e-mail us atinfoaboutwael@google.com ’.

At the start of the protests, the Egyptian government imposed an Internet blackout. To counter this, Google and Twitter pulled together the technology needed for the Speak2Tweet service to convert voice calls into tweets.

Wael Ghonim, the  Google Inc. marketing manager who took part in protests against Mubarak’s rule has been reported missing  since Jan. 27.

On that day, he was apparently circumventing a government shutdown of the Internet — a post on a Twitter account listed under his name said: “Very worried as it seems that government is planning a war crime tomorrow against people. We are all ready to die.”

A YouTube video of a street protest shows the detention of a man resembling Ghonim. In the footage, men in plainclothes approach a line of protesters and grab the man identified as Ghonim, hustling him through a gap in a squad of riot police.

Among the human atrocities being committed is the arrest of workers of the human rights Organisation, Amnesty Internatinal.

Many arrested victims of the protest were said to have been released but there are fears that many more considered threatening the government especially with strong press links may still be languishing in detentions.

“Do you know why you’re here?” a military interrogator asked an Amnesty International worker who was held incommunicado for nearly two days, bound or blindfolded much of the time.  The top military brat however then answered his own question.

“You’re here for your own protection,” the interrogator told Said Haddadi, a French national who was swept up in a wave of detentions of human rights activists and journalists during deadly the clashes between pro- and anti-government protesters.

Dozens of activists who were rounded up in Egypt’s chaos like Haddadi have been freed, but some are believed to remain in custody. Advocates say the government refuses to release names or locations of detainees, and the involvement of both police and military agencies makes it hard to determine who is responsible.

“It’s not clear who is doing what,” said Sally Sami of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.

On Sunday, Egypt’s Vice-President Omar Suleiman met opposition figures and promised to begin releasing political detainees as part of a concession package. Spokesman Magdy Rady said Egypt was in such a state of upheaval that “some groups” might be detaining people “in the name of the government” without proper authority and record of detentions.

“In the mess we are in, everything is possible,” said Rady, promising investigation into such cases. “We are really against these forces now.”

Al-Jazeera’s English-language news network said one of its correspondents was detained Sunday by the Egyptian military. The report said Ayman Mohyeldin, an American citizen, was taken Sunday from Tahrir Square, where protesters demanding President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster are holding out.

There are no reliable figures for the number of people detained after protests began Jan. 25 in Cairo and grew into an uprising that pushed Egypt into crisis. The raids on activists — some were reported Saturday — were a targeted backlash by security forces despite the government’s pledges of reform.

The military role in arrests, in particular, is seen by government opponents as ominous because the armed forces, a pillar of state authority, have sought a neutral image in the conflict and would be key to a smooth transition of power.

“The problem is that the army doesn’t have any justice system, they don’t have any way to process these detainees,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at the New York-based Human Rights Watch.

One of the most prominent activists believed to be in detention is Wael Ghonim, a Google Inc. marketing manager who took part in protests against Mubarak’s rule. He was reported missing on Jan. 27.

On that day, he was apparently circumventing a government shutdown of the Internet — a post on a Twitter account listed under his name said: “Very worried as it seems that government is planning a war crime tomorrow against people. We are all ready to die.”

A YouTube video of a street protest shows the detention of a man resembling Ghonim. In the footage, men in plainclothes approach a line of protesters and grab the man identified as Ghonim, hustling him through a gap in a squad of riot police.

Haddadi was among several dozen activists who were detained Thursday at the Hisham Mubarak Law Center and transferred to what they believe was a military police camp on the outskirts of Cairo. As they were led from the law office to a van, a crowd of pro-government supporters screamed insults and spat at the vehicle.

The crowd’s message was “we are traitors and we sold the country for money and we are agents of the Israelis and we want to create havoc in the country,” Haddadi said as he described the encounter after his release Friday night.

In detention, the group slept in the open air, within the walls of a compound, and each was occasionally given a piece of bread with jam or honey. Guards removed their blindfolds when they went to the bathroom.

Interrogations were cursory, and Haddadi said he was not harmed, in contrast to numerous reports of torture and other abuses in Egyptian detention facilities over the years. He was dropped off at a hotel closed for renovations near the airport, and all others in the group were eventually released.

Security forces, however, ransacked offices and removed files from the law centre, headquarters for groups that provided legal aid for protesters and gathered data on alleged abuses, said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“All the hard drives of all the computers were taken,” Sahraoui said in a telephone interview from London. “It’s not clear whether there is backup of all that information.”

She said the raid was similar to one conducted by Iranian authorities on a human rights centre set up by reformist leader Mehdi Karroubi around the time of anti-government protests in Tehran in 2009.

One Egyptian rights group, the Nadim Center, reported a fresh round of detentions on Saturday, including several people who were taken from their homes and offices.

Before Egypt’s uprising, rights groups followed a standard procedure when someone was detained, filing a complaint at the public prosecutor’s office. Sami of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies said the situation is now chaotic, citing the case of a person who was held for nearly a week without activists being aware of the case.

“Egypt is a big country, Cairo is a very big city,” she said. “We don’t necessarily get reports of each and every detention that takes place.”

6 COMMENTS

  1. From Iman Bibars, Director, Ashoka Arab World with intro by
    Ashoka Fellow Al Etmanski

    The “clean souls” of Egypt – A Letter from an Ashoka and Egyptian Leader
    The following letter is written by Dr. Iman Bibars, who is an Ashoka Vice President and the Egypt based, Regional Director of Ashoka Arab World.
    Ashoka is a global fellowship of over 2600 of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs, many of whom are working in Arab Nations. These men and women are addressing some of the world’s toughest problems often in extraordinary situations, including Egypt. They are chosen by Ashoka because of their ingenuity and their desire for system wide change. I received this note because I am part of this Ashoka fellowship.
    Dr. Bibars has committed her life to work with marginalized and voiceless groups, such as female heads of households in the poorest slums of Egypt, street children, street vendors and garbage collectors. Her letter speaks to the irrepressible nature of good even when confronted by overwhelming repression. It is a emotional first person account from inside the cauldron that is now Egypt. Feel free to send her a message of support.
    Dear Friends of Ashoka,

    This is a letter to all of my friends and colleagues who sent warm and kind words of encouragement to me, my family and all of the Egyptians at these very tough times.

    What has happened in Egypt the last week or more is unprecedented and is a wonderful and revitalizing experience for all Egyptians who love this country. This is our first real people revolution and it is fueled by wonderful and great young men and women from all walks of Egypt. The liberation square has become a symbol for all our sufferings and also our victories. I cannot claim that I have suffered as many Egyptians did and many of the young revolutionaries asked me why am I supporting them although I have been benefiting (their words) or have not been harmed by the old regime. My only answer was that I loved Egypt and that to be loyal and patriotic to this country means that you want the best for her and you want her to be free and her people to be liberated and treated as humans.
    For me Egypt is a she, a her and the mother of all Egyptians and the matriarch that has kept us all in her bosom and nurtured us whether we were grateful or not. And what the regime of husni Mubarak and the security apparatus headed by the war criminal habib al adly have done to us and to the people of Egypt for 30 years is unparalleled in any other country. The humiliation and destruction of the Egyptian character and the spirit of the people in a calculated and organized way took place for 30 years in a relentless and very evil way. Egyptians stopped laughing or smiling from their hearts, you could see and touch helplessness and hopelessness among the old and the young.
    Phenomena such as sexual harassment, looting and predominance of thugs spread because they were encouraged by the security that wanted to break the pride and self respect of all Egyptians. The murdering and killing was not only of peoples bodies and lives but of their souls and spirits. Corruption and lack of ethical fiber and self respect became the norm, became the traits most respected.

    I am as you all know quite mature (i.e. old) and have been here since the 60s and I have worked with the people and in the streets and was naïve enough to try to enter politics believing that this country needed those who loved her and who would give more then they would take. I was burnt and burnt hard and not only from the government but from the pretenders or those who played the roles of defenders of human rights or of the people but who in many cases found it lucrative to play that role. My mistake was that I always followed my conscience and what I thought was right and was neither extreme left nor extreme right. What happened in Egypt during the last 5 years at least what I found out broke my heart and I started thinking and acting seriously to leave the country to go and live somewhere else. I did not feel there was any hope left.

    But then on the 25th, I rediscovered Egypt, the Egypt I have read about and dreamed about. The brave and noble youth of Egypt have resurrected our pride and soul. They have revived the real spirit and soul of Egypt. They have taken away our shame of being so spineless and useless for decades. They have and for the first time in our history carried a real people’s revolution at least during my life time.

    They managed to reveal the true face of our security and police forces, those traitors who abandoned their posts and allowed our children and families to die, be attacked and vandalized. Many of the looters and thugs were reported were associated one way or the other with the police. They did not mind that mothers, elders and children be terrorized in a an effort to abort the revolution and scare all of the liberation square heroes away from their main battle. They did not care and frankly this is what the last regime had shown over and over again, that they do not care for us, for the Egyptians or for Egypt. That is why they should not stay, they should go , they should not be allowed to rule or govern as they are in reality traitors who hate us. No one who loves his country and its people would have allowed the scandal and shameful behavior of the security forces not only in murdering and torturing the protesters but more so in terrorizing the kind people of Egypt by opening the prisons, and sending their own thugs to steal, loot and vandalize shops, homes and the nice and simple Egyptian families.

    Now at this moment and after the maneuvers of the state , a peaceful transition of power is becoming less of a reality and clashes between the youth of Egypt, the real revolutionaries and those pushed and prompted by the state and the NDP is going on now. I just learned that the liberation square is completely blocked and the army tanks are around it and also blocking any means to go in or out.

    The state TV is sending wrong images and stories and lying to the people of Egypt, the regime and its NDP are sending thugs and some paid youth to start fights with the heroes of the liberation square and our youth are in deep danger. They are being under siege now and are being attacked by disguised thugs and security forces, the army has blocked all inroads to the liberation square and the mercenaries of the regime are beating and attacking women, girls and young men whose only demand was freedom and liberty.

    If we can reach all Egyptians everywhere and tell them that the revolution is not and will not be over, I met several young people and they said that they are willing to die for Egypt in the liberation square but we do not want to sacrifice those clean souls. Please lets all see a way to save them and tell all of Egypt that the mercenaries of the regime are the ones taking to the street now and that no one should give up the demands for a better and more liberated and free Egypt. Please do not believe the state TV for there are no outside forces or traitors among the revolutionaries who wanted our pride and self worth and respect to return to us.

    Iman Bibars, PhD
    Leadership Team Member
    Vice President, Ashoka
    Regional Director, Ashoka Arab World
    ibibars@ashoka.org

  2. We are praying for the safety of Wael Ghonim of Google as well as all other journalists and telecommunications staffers on the ground in Cairo.

    This (below) also received from Director of Ashoka Arab World, Dr. Iman Bibars:

    This Is The Post That Got An Egyptian Blogger Arrested And His Blog Taken Offline [Updated: Blogger Released – Blog restored]
    Sandmonkey was arrested and his blog taken down. In solidarity, I’m publishing his latest post, the one that arguably got him caught.
    Egypt Right Now, by Sandmonkey
    I don’t know how to start writing this. I have been battling fatigue for not sleeping properly for the past 10 days, moving from one’s friend house to another friend’s house, almost never spending a night in my home, facing a very well funded and well organized ruthless regime that views me as nothing but an annoying bug that its time to squash will come. The situation here is bleak to say the least.
    It didn’t start out that way. On Tuesday Jan 25 it all started peacefully, and against all odds, we succeeded to gather hundreds of thousands and get them into Tahrir Square, despite being attacked by Anti-Riot Police who are using sticks, tear gas and rubber bullets against us. We managed to break all of their barricades and situated ourselves in Tahrir. The government responded by shutting down all cell communication in Tahrir square, a move which purpose was understood later when after midnight they went in with all of their might and attacked the protesters and evacuated the Square. The next day we were back at it again, and the day after. Then came Friday and we braved their communication blackout, their thugs, their tear gas and their bullets and we retook the square. We have been fighting to keep it ever since.
    That night the government announced a military curfew, which kept getting shorter by the day, until it became from 8 am to 3 pm. People couldn’t go to work, gas was running out quickly and so were essential goods and money, since the banks were not allowed to operate and people were not able to collect their salary. The internet continued to be blocked, which affected all businesses in Egypt and will cause an economic meltdown the moment they allow the banks to operate again. We were being collectively punished for daring to say that we deserve democracy and rights, and to keep it up, they withdrew the police, and then sent them out dressed as civilians to terrorize our neighborhoods. I was shot at twice that day, one of which with a semi-automatic by a dude in a car that we the people took joy in pummeling. The government announced that all prisons were breached, and that the prisoners somehow managed to get weapons and do nothing but randomly attack people. One day we had organized thugs in uniforms firing at us and the next day they disappeared and were replaced by organized thugs without uniforms firing at us. Somehow the people never made the connection.
    Despite it all, we braved it. We believed we are doing what’s right and were encouraged by all those around us who couldn’t believe what was happening to their country. What he did galvanized the people, and on Tuesday, despite shutting down all major roads leading into Cairo, we managed to get over 2 million protesters in Cairo alone and 3 million all over Egypt to come out and demand Mubarak’s departure. Those are people who stood up to the regime’s ruthlessness and anger and declared that they were free, and were refusing to live in the Mubarak dictatorship for one more day. That night, he showed up on TV, and gave a very emotional speech about how he intends to step down at the end of his term and how he wants to die in Egypt, the country he loved and served. To me, and to everyone else at the protests this wasn’t nearly enough, for we wanted him gone now. Others started asking that we give him a chance, and that change takes time and other such poppycock. Hell, some people and family members cried when they saw his speech. People felt sorry for him for failing to be our dictator for the rest of his life and inheriting us to his Son. It was an amalgam of Stockholm syndrome coupled with slave mentality in a malevolent combination that we never saw before. And the Regime capitalized on it today.
    Today, they brought back the internet, and started having people calling on TV and writing on facebook on how they support Mubarak and his call for stability and peacefull change in 8 months. They hung on to the words of the newly appointed government would never harm the protesters, whom they believe to be good patriotic youth who have a few bad apples amongst them. We started getting calls asking people to stop protesting because “we got what we wanted” and “we need the country to start working again”. People were complaining that they miss their lives. That they miss going out at night, and ordering Home Delivery. That they need us to stop so they can resume whatever existence they had before all of this. All was forgiven, the past week never happened and it’s time for Unity under Mubarak’s rule right now.
    To all of those people I say: NEVER! I am sorry that your lives and businesses are disrupted, but this wasn’t caused by the Protesters. The Protesters aren’t the ones who shut down the internet that has paralyzed your businesses and banks: The government did. The Protesters weren’t the ones who initiated the military curfew that limited your movement and allowed goods to disappear off market shelves and gas to disappear: The government did. The Protesters weren’t the ones who ordered the police to withdraw and claimed the prisons were breached and unleashed thugs that terrorized your neighborhoods: The government did. The same government that you wish to give a second chance to, as if 30 years of dictatorship and utter failure in every sector of government wasn’t enough for you. The Slaves were ready to forgive their master, and blame his cruelty on those who dared to defy him in order to ensure a better Egypt for all of its citizens and their children. After all, he gave us his word, and it’s not like he ever broke his promises for reform before or anything.
    Then Mubarak made his move and showed them what useful idiots they all were.
    You watched on TV as “Pro-Mubarak Protesters” – thugs who were paid money by NDP members by admission of High NDP officials- started attacking the peaceful unarmed protesters in Tahrir square. They attacked them with sticks, threw stones at them, brought in men riding horses and camels- in what must be the most surreal scene ever shown on TV- and carrying whips to beat up the protesters. And then the Bullets started getting fired and Molotov cocktails started getting thrown at the Anti-Mubarak Protesters as the Army standing idly by, allowing it all to happen and not doing anything about it. Dozens were killed, hundreds injured, and there was no help sent by ambulances. The Police never showed up to stop those attacking because the ones who were captured by the Anti-mubarak people had police ID’s on them. They were the police and they were there to shoot and kill people and even tried to set the Egyptian Museum on Fire. The Aim was clear: Use the clashes as pretext to ban such demonstrations under pretexts of concern for public safety and order, and to prevent disunity amongst the people of Egypt. But their plans ultimately failed, by those resilient brave souls who wouldn’t give up the ground they freed of Egypt, no matter how many live bullets or firebombs were hurled at them. They know, like we all do, that this regime no longer cares to put on a moderate mask. That they have shown their true nature. That Mubarak will never step down, and that he would rather burn Egypt to the ground than even contemplate that possibility.
    In the meantime, State-owned and affiliated TV channels were showing coverage of Peaceful Mubarak Protests all over Egypt and showing recorded footage of Tahrir Square protest from the night before and claiming it’s the situation there at the moment. Hundreds of calls by public figures and actors started calling the channels saying that they are with Mubarak, and that he is our Father and we should support him on the road to democracy. A veiled girl with a blurred face went on Mehwer TV claiming to have received funding by Americans to go to the US and took courses on how to bring down the Egyptian government through protests which were taught by Jews. She claimed that AlJazeera is lying, and that the only people in Tahrir square now were Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. State TV started issuing statements on how the people arrested Israelis all over Cairo engaged in creating mayhem and causing chaos. For those of you who are counting this is an American-Israeli-Qatari-Muslim Brotherhood-Iranian-Hamas conspiracy. Imagine that. And MANY PEOPLE BOUGHT IT. I recall telling a friend of mine that the only good thing about what happened today was that it made clear to us who were the idiots amongst our friends. Now we know.
    Now, just in case this isn’t clear: This protest is not one made or sustained by the Muslim Brotherhood, it’s one that had people from all social classes and religious background in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood only showed up on Tuesday, and even then they were not the majority of people there by a long shot. We tolerated them there since we won’t say no to fellow Egyptians who wanted to stand with us, but neither the Muslims Brotherhood not any of the Opposition leaders have the ability to turn out one tenth of the numbers of Protesters that were in Tahrir on Tuesday. This is a revolution without leaders. Three Million individuals choosing hope instead of fear and braving death on hourly basis to keep their dream of freedom alive. Imagine that.
    The End is near. I have no illusions about this regime or its leader, and how he will pluck us and hunt us down one by one till we are over and done with and 8 months from now will pay people to stage fake protests urging him not to leave power, and he will stay “because he has to acquiesce to the voice of the people”. This is a losing battle and they have all the weapons, but we will continue fighting until we can’t. I am heading to Tahrir right now with supplies for the hundreds injured, knowing that today the attacks will intensify, because they can’t allow us to stay there come Friday, which is supposed to be the game changer. We are bringing everybody out, and we will refuse to be anything else than peaceful. If you are in Egypt, I am calling on all of you to head down to Tahrir today and Friday. It is imperative to show them that the battle for the soul of Egypt isn’t over and done with. I am calling you to bring your friends, to bring medical supplies, to go and see what Mubarak’s gurantees look like in real life. Egypt needs you. Be Heroes.
    Update: Sandmonkey was released. He just tweeted:
    I am ok. I got out. I was ambushed & beaten by the police, my phone confiscated , my car ripped apar& supplies taken #jan25

  3. hi there i watched the revelution on tv and i am glad the criminal finally gave up i sent a e mail to the palace and also gave him a piece of my mind and told him to go as it would happen now or later if he thought aything of his people he would leave now it must of been a nightmare to live the way you all had to with the do and donts of his world i hope it is all over now and your country will proper with work for the young and old houses ect thats the way we live here we live peacefully next to each other help each other religion does not matter we ahve diffrent relgion in our street and we help each other we can even talk to each other about diffrent relgion