Trevor Olson, a U.S. Embassy spokesman in Cairo, when asked about Boehm, said in an emailed statement that the embassy was aware of his case and had “provided appropriate consular services.”
As Egypt’s top military general, Sissi engineered a coup in 2013 that ousted the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi. A year later, Sissi took office and began jailing tens of thousands of opponents and critics. Extrajudicial killings and torture grew. Hundreds of websites deemed critical of the regime were blocked.
The latest wave of repression came after videos were posted online last month by a whistleblower in self-imposed exile in Spain.
Mohamed Ali, a former government contractor and part-time actor, accused Sissi and his generals of stealing taxpayer funds to build palaces and villas.
Sissi publicly denied the corruption allegations. But Ali’s videos struck a chord with millions of Egyptians frustrated by rising prices, lowered subsidies and other economic woes at a time when Sissi has spent billions of dollars on large infrastructure projects.
Ali urged Egyptians to stage protests on Sept. 20, demanding Sissi’s removal, and several hundred people did in small but rare demonstrations in several cities. When Ali called for a larger protest on Sept. 27, security forces deployed to suppress it.
Social media, which helped fuel the 2011 Arab Spring revolution against longtime President Hosni Mubarak, has become a target of the official crackdown. Hundreds of people have been arrested, including some tourists, for criticizing the government on Facebook or Twitter on charges of publishing “fake news” and defaming the country’s image.
“There is a deep belief within the security apparatus that information put out there on social media is more dangerous for the regime and more of a threat to its security and stability than terrorism,” Lotfy said.
Since Sept. 20, security forces have arrested at least 11 journalists and at least 25 politicians and academics, many on terrorism charges and for “spreading false news,” according to human rights groups.
At least 111 children, between 11 and 17, are among the arrested, according to Belady for Rights and Freedoms, a local human rights group dealing with children. Amnesty International said three children were buying school stationery and uniforms in downtown Cairo when they were arrested. Nearly two-thirds of the children are facing charges of being a member of a terrorism group or “misusing social media,” even though many did not own cellphones, activists said.
“They are redefining the interpretation of terrorist to include anyone who opposes the state or President Sissi himself,” said Baoumi, of Amnesty International.
At least seven foreigners have been arrested and forced to “confess” on a pro-Sissi television channel that they were part of a foreign conspiracy to undermine the president.
And former prisoners are also being rearrested. Prominent blogger and activist Alaa Abd El Fattah was seized and tortured by security agents in prison, even though he was not involved in the protests and was already being watched by police, his family said.
“He was blindfolded as he was brought to prison, forced to strip off all his clothes but his underwear, beaten up and verbally abused as he walked through a corridor into the prison,” said Mona Seif, the sister of Abd El Fattah, in a Facebook post.
Security forces also detained Esraa Abdel Fattah, a writer and key figure in the 2011 revolution. Her lawyer said she was beaten, slapped in the face and suffocated with her own sweatshirt to force her to open up her cellphone and social media accounts.