Demonstrators rally in downtown Cairo, Egypt, on September 21 to oppose government corruption and the regime of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Photo by EPA-EFE
Sept. 27 (UPI) -- Hundreds of people were arrested in Egypt Friday as part of a wide-ranging sweep aimed at anti-government demonstrations that first began a week ago.
Authorities are preparing for a second weekend of protests to oppose Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Egypt's interior ministry has threatened "decisive" action against activists' attempts to destabilize peace.
El-Sisi, who led the overthrow of then-Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi in 2013, has downplayed last weekend's demonstrations. He was set to return to Egypt Friday after attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York City.
He has been accused of using arrests and other tactics to squash dissent. Human Rights Watch reported Friday nearly 2,000 have been arrested ahead of this weekend's rallies, and accused the Egyptian government of trying to suppress dissent.
"The authorities should pledge to respect the right to peaceful assembly by allowing protests, applying nonviolent means to respond before resorting to the use of force, and taking measures to prevent violence between opposing protesters," HRW said.
"The government should release all those arrested solely for peacefully exercising their rights and should stop interfering with news sites and Internet services."
HRW Middle East and North Africa Director Leah Whitson said the arrests were intended to "scare away" demonstrators and deny them information.
"The nationwide crackdown on protests suggests that President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is terrified of Egyptians' criticisms,'" Whitson said.
Egyptian Army contractor Mohamed Ali, who lives in self-exile in Spain, has called for protests against government corruption.