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Egypt deports U.S. anti-war activist on way to Gaza

By Bharati Naik and Marie-Louise Gumuchian, CNN
updated 11:21 AM EST, Tue March 4, 2014
[FILE PHOTO:] Medea Benjamin, an activist from the organization called Code Pink, on May 23, 2013 in Washington, DC.
[FILE PHOTO:] Medea Benjamin, an activist from the organization called Code Pink, on May 23, 2013 in Washington, DC.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Activist Medea Benjamin says she was detained, assaulted in Cairo
  • An Egyptian official says she was "denied entry, not detained"
  • Benjamin was trying to travel to Gaza, the official said
  • Authorities told her the crossing was closed and refused to allow her entry, he said

(CNN) -- Egypt on Tuesday deported an American anti-war activist who was trying to travel to the Gaza Strip.

Medea Benjamin, who co-founded the Code Pink anti-war group, said she was detained on arrival at Cairo airport Monday evening. She had planned to join a delegation of activists on a visit to the Palestinian coastal enclave this week.

She told CNN she was assaulted by airport police, resulting in her arm being broken and shoulder dislocated, before being put on a flight to Istanbul on Tuesday.

"I was never told why I was arrested. I was detained as soon as I arrived and I was violently assaulted in prison," she said by phone on arrival in Turkey. "My arm is broken. I did not do anything wrong. No reason was given for my arrest."

Many who changed Egypt now in jail

She spoke briefly as she said she was on her way to a hospital. She said she was deported despite Egyptian doctors saying she was not fit to fly.

An official from Egypt's Interior Ministry communications department said Benjamin had not been detained.

"She was denied entry, not detained. There's a big difference," Brigadier Alaa Mahmoud told CNN. "There is no legal basis to detain her."

He said she had stated her reason for visiting as a trip to Gaza, but authorities explained to her that the crossing was closed and consequently refused to allow her to enter the country.

He denied any use of force or assault. He also said that he had no information on whether Benjamin had been banned from Egypt.

Benjamin chronicled the events on Twitter.

Heckling Obama

Last May, she famously interrupted President Barack Obama as he gave a speech on counterterrorism policy, repeatedly urging him to take faster action in releasing detainees from the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Members of the group have previously interrupted congressional hearings and official speeches.

On its website, Code Pink said it was sending a U.S. delegation of 15 women to join a larger coalition that would travel to Gaza. It said they would meet in Cairo on March 5 and attempt to travel to Gaza from there.

"Due to the political and security issues in Egypt, there are no guarantees that we will be able to get into Gaza," the group said.

Israel and Egypt restrict the flow of goods into the coastal territory, which is ruled by the Islamist movement Hamas, designated as a terrorist group by Israel and Western countries.

On Tuesday, a Cairo court banned all activities by Hamas in Egypt, calling it a terrorist organization.

The nation's military government has been cracking down on Islamist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, since the ouster of President Mohamed Morsy last July.

READ: Egypt: Detained Al Jazeera journalists appear in court as trial opens

READ: Egyptian activists behind bars on uprising's anniversary

CNN's Sarah Sirgany and Saad Abedine contributed to this report.

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