The U.S.-based Egyptian activist whose Facebook page helped ignite the 2011 pro-democracy uprising said authorities have arrested his brother in Cairo.
Wael Ghonim, a computer engineer, said his criticism of Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi prompted authorities to retaliate by detaining his brother and threatening his parents.
Ghonim alleged that the Egyptian Embassy in Washington sent him threats the day before the arrest.
“They told me if I did not stop speaking, something will happen,” Ghonem said in a video posted on Twitter late Thursday.
He said authorities raided his parents’ home and arrested his brother Hazem, whom he described as an “apolitical person,” and confiscated his parents’ passports and phones.
“They threatened my dad that if I do not stop insulting them, they will escalate,” Ghonim said.
The arrest came as Egyptian social media was awash with calls for anti-government protests Friday. Videos posted by a self-exiled businessman recently claimed large-scale corruption by the military and government, allegations el-Sissi dismissed as “lies.”
Egypt outlawed all unauthorized protests in 2013. That’s when el-Sissi, as defense minister, led the military’s overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president amid mass protests against his brief rule.
The government crackdown that followed has rolled back the freedoms won in 2011. Tens of thousands of Egyptians have been arrested since 2013, and many had fled the country.
Wael Ghonim was one of the many activists who went into in self-exile. He was one of the young Egyptians who had used social media to mobilize widespread protests in 2011, which brought down longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak amid the wave of so-called Arab Spring uprisings. At the time, Ghonim was venerated by different pro-democracy groups as a revolutionary figure.
In recent days, Ghonim has reemerged to the forefront of the social media with videos voicing criticism of el-Sissi’s government.
In his latest video, Ghonim spoke in English and called upon “the international community” to help him save his brother.