ISTANBUL 

A human rights watchdog urged Egyptian authorities Thursday to stop its “harassment and intimidation” against health care workers for expressing views about the government’s handling of coronavirus pandemic.

“Healthcare workers in Egypt have been arrested, criminalized and prosecuted simply for daring to express their personal safety concerns,” Amnesty International said in a statement.

The rights group said authorities have used “vague and overly broad charges of spreading false news and terrorism to arbitrarily arrest and detain healthcare workers.”

It added that eight healthcare workers were arrested between March and June by the Egyptian National Security Agency.

It highlighted the case of 26-year-old doctor Alaa Shaaban Hamida, who was arrested March 28 at the hospital where she works in Alexandria.

“Alaa, who is pregnant, is currently held in pre-trial detention on charges of membership in a terrorist group, spreading false news, and mis-using social media,” the statement added.

The government has yet to comment on Amnesty’s charges, but usually denies such accusations and accuses rights groups of politicizing reports against Egypt.

“The campaign not only further undermines freedom of expression in the country, but also hamstrings the efforts of those tackling the heath crisis and puts their and others’ lives in danger,” said Philip Luther, the group’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

The Egyptian Medical Association warned last month of a complete collapse of the health care system in Egypt.

It said Wednesday that 73 doctors have died from the coronavirus in Egypt.

Virus infections in Egypt have reached 49,219, including 1,850 deaths and 13,141 recoveries.

*Ahmed Asmar contributed to this report from Ankara

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