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Egypt kicks out Swedish journalist

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07:44 CEST+02:00
A Swedish journalist was deported by Egypt on Thursday reportedly due to his alleged involvement in pro-Palestinian march, an Egyptian security official told AFP.

Per Björklund, a freelance reporter who worked as a contributor for the Swedish

publication Fria Tidningen, was stopped at Cairo airport when he returned from holiday and was deported early on Thursday, the official said.

Björklund and several other foreigners were present at a peaceful march in January protesting against Israel's war in the Palestinian Gaza Strip.

The protesters were stopped by police on a road near Cairo, and one, German-Egyptian dual national Philip Rizk, was arrested and held for several days.

Another participant in the march, US citizen Travis Randall, was also denied re-entry to Egypt last month. Both Randall and Björklund lived in Cairo.

"They took part in a protest, and were coming back to plan and participate in another protest," said the official who requested anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

Björklund, who extensively covered labour disputes during his three years in Egypt, told AFP on Thursday he had been reporting on the march and that he did not intend to plan any demonstration.

"I think it's very unclear. If I broke some law the logical response would have been to arrest me," he said over the phone from Stockholm.

Randall, who wrote lifestyle stories for local publications, said he was told by the US embassy in Cairo that he was barred from Egypt and added that he had not planned to take part in further protests.

"I was planning nothing, I was just planning on coming home," he said by phone from London.

The State Department advises US citizens to avoid protests in Egypt, where demonstrators are regularly arrested and detained, sometimes for months.

Hundreds of Egyptian protesters were arrested across the country during Israel's devastating war with the Islamist Hamas rulers of Gaza in December and January.

Protesters called on Egypt, which blamed both Hamas and Israel for the war, to permanently open its Rafah border crossing with the impoverished Palestinian enclave, which has been blockaded since Hamas seized power there in 2007.

The larger protests were organised by the banned opposition group the Muslim Brotherhood, whose Palestinian branch gave rise to Hamas in the 1980s.

Egypt responded fiercely to critics of its Palestinian policies, arresting pro-Palestinian blogger Dia el-Din Gad in February.

Gad, who denounced the Egypt government on his blog and called President Hosni Mubarak "Ehud Mubarak," in a reference to then Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, was released in March.

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