Prominent Egyptian activists end hunger strike

The mother and sister of two jailed Egyptian pro-democracy activists ended a 76-day solidarity hunger strike Wednesday that they had undertaken to press for the release of imprisoned government critics.

Activists have used hunger strikes recently to protest the arrest of thousands of people in a sweeping government crackdown on dissent.

In a statement announcing the end of their strike, Mona Seif said the experience made her "truly appreciate more the struggle of the brave detainees in our country's prisons."

Seif's brother Alaa Abdel-Fattah, a symbol of Egypt's 2011 uprising, has spent time in prison under four different Egyptian governments. He is currently facing a retrial on a 15-year year prison sentence for violating a law that bans protests without prior government approval. Her sister Sanaa was convicted for breaking the same law along with 22 other activists and sentenced to three years in prison.

Dozens of young activists have been detained over the past year mainly for breaking the contested protest law, amid a vicious media campaign to smear their reputation as foreign agents or on the payroll of dubious Western rights groups.

In a sign of the times, police quickly fired tear gas to disperse dozens of demonstrators marching near Tahrir Square Wednesday to protest the military-backed government.

A security official, speaking anonymously because he was not authorized to brief reporters, said at least 25 protesters were arrested.

The protesters were attempting to commemorate the third anniversary of one of the most brutal confrontations with security forces since the uprising. The November 2011 clashes left nearly 50 dead and came to be known as the Mohammed Mahmoud Battle, named after the street where they took place.

Also Wednesday, police stormed Cairo's Al-Azhar University to break up a student demonstration after a sound bomb detonated. A security official said they arrested ten demonstrators. The government has condemned Islamist calls for protests next week.

Rights groups say dozens of prisoners from across the political spectrum are on hunger strike to protest ill-treatment and lack of due process.