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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Leading Egyptian Facebook Activist Arrested, Friends Say

Leading Egyptian Facebook Activist Arrested, Friends Say

An Egyptian Facebook activist and leader of the group known as the April 6 Youth has been arrested in Cairo, friends told Wired.com Wednesday in emails.
Ahmed Maher, 30, gained prominence in 2008 as one of the co-founders of the April 6 Youth, a solidarity group launched to support protests. Organizing mostly online, especially on Facebook, they are a carefully decentralized network of activists, who have used the tools of social media to broadcast their grievances with the Mubarak regime, mobilize support, evade the government’s ubiquitous security forces, and, now, helped to bring the Mubarak regime to its knees. WIRED magazine publishedthis article about them in 2008. Their nascent, tech-fired rebellion helped ignite the revolution and the government backlash that has captured the world’s attention.
Maher and a friend launched a Facebook group to promote a protest planned for April 6, 2008. It became an Internet phenomenon, quickly attracting more than 70,000 members. That protest died still born, but Maher has continued to organize and has played a prominent role in the peaceful uprising of the past week aimed at toppling the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarark.
Word of Maher’s arrest came from two separate sources shortly after protesters began to clash with pro-government groups after Mubarak pledged step down in September, signalling a major escalation of violence after days of largely peaceful protests. The arrest could not immediately be confirmed.
Sherif Mansour, a senior program officer at Freedom House in Washington D.C., has been in close contact with Maher and his group for years, and is currently trying to get through to some of Maher’s peers to glean details.
Early on Wednesday morning, Wired.com also received its first correspondence from an April 6 group member in five days. “I am so sorry for the delay[ed response] because there’s no internet connection in Egypt since last Friday,” wrote 28-year-old Waleed Rashed in a short message sent via Facebook. “I am OK and my friends also. We will be in the street till Mubarak go. No another way. Just pray to us and we will be in touch.” It remains unclear at this point how Rashed was able to get online.

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