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Sep 1, 2:13 PM EDT

Rights group: Witness for report on Egypt detained

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CAIRO (AP) -- Human Rights Watch said Monday one of the witnesses for its investigation into mass killings in Egypt last summer was detained, calling for his release.

The New York-based group said in a statement that the witness, Mohammed Tareq, was detained during a protest in Egypt's second-largest city of Alexandria on Friday and ordered held pending an investigation.

The group said Tareq's arrest appeared unrelated to his testimony on last summer's violent security force breakup of sit-ins by supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi.

But the group said according to Tareq's lawyer, among seven people initially arrested with him, Tareq was the only one who was beaten and had his home raided, signaling that he may be targeted for his testimony. Only Tareq and four others remain detained for 15 days pending an investigation.

Human Rights Watch said Tareq is investigated for allegedly illegally protesting, and of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, a group the government has branded a terrorist organization. The group called for Tareq and the other men to be released or for the prompt leveling of charges against them in a way that doesn't violate their rights.

A security official said Tareq, who previously taught science at Alexandria University, is also accused of managing pages on social media sites that "incite against the police and military." The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters.

Tareq had given testimony about the 2013 security crackdown on the sit-in at Rabaah al-Adawiya Square, including a recorded statement on how he was shot with live ammunition in his arm and chest.

Human Rights Watch said the killing of more than 800 protesters at the square was a likely crime against humanity, and called for an international inquiry into the role of government officials, including President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who was Egypt's military chief at the time of the raid. The group interviewed at least 200 witnesses for its report.

At least 20,000 people have been arrested in a crackdown against protesters and supporters of Morsi since last year amid a wave of violent attacks against police and military troops.

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