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31 May, 2009 15:25

At least 35 Russian citizens detained in Egypt

At least 15 Russians are reported to have been released in Egypt after being arrested several days ago. More than 20 more are still being held in Cairo. The Russian Consulate says Moscow wants more explanations.

Five out eight detained students from Kazakhstan have also been released, the country’s Foreign Ministry reported on Saturday evening.

Over 35 Russian citizens, mostly students studying in Al-Azhar University, have been detained by Egyptian authorities for no apparent reason on Tuesday night.

The Russian Consulate in Egypt has confirmed the arrests, stressing they were conducted during the night and in a rude manner. A spokesman for the Russian embassy in Cairo Timur Agametov told Russian Interfax news agency on Friday that the list of detainees is growing.

The Russian student association says the arrests started on May 27 in Cairo when task force officers stormed into leased apartments. Most of the detained students come from Russia's North Caucasus republics.

It is reported that police were rummaging apartments and confiscating personal belongings, including laptops and money.

Among the detained Russians there are three mothers with two or more children left unattended. Their children are studying in secondary schools that are affiliated with the Al-Azhar University.

Local authorities insist it was a routine ID check to verify whether they had residence permits. Russian diplomats are not allowed to communicate with the detained, which goes against ordinary practice.

"Though the Egyptian authorities say it’s just a regular ID check, we are still very concerned. Dozens of students have been arrested. We haven’t heard anything about them for already three days," Rubin Munirov a graduate student told RT.

In addition to Russians, citizens of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, France and Great Britain have been arrested. The exact location of the detained Russian citizens is still unknown.

While nobody would say it out loud, some in the university believe the latest arrests were connected to the coming visit of the US president to Cairo. Barack Obama has chosen the Egyptian capital for its keynote speech to the Muslim world. Ironically, most of the detained are said to be devout Muslims