Leading Egyptian rights group says two members arrested

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CAIRO (Reuters) - A prominent Egyptian rights group said security agents arrested a senior member of its staff on Wednesday, three days after its administrative manager was detained under charges including joining a terrorist group.

The arrests come after senior diplomats visited the group, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), for a briefing on the human rights situation on Nov. 3.

Amnesty International condemned the arrests as a "chilling escalation of the Egyptian authorities' crackdown on civil society".

The interior ministry was not immediately available for comment.

National Security service agents arrested Karim Ennarah, EIPR's criminal justice unit director, early on Wednesday afternoon while he was on holiday in the Red Sea resort of Dahab and took him to an unknown location, the group said.

Another member of staff, administrative manager Mohamed Basheer, has been ordered detained for 15 days on charges of joining a terrorist group, spreading false information and funding terrorism after being arrested from his home in the early hours of Sunday, according to the group.

Prosecutors and security agents questioned Basheer about EIPR's work and about the Nov. 3 visit by diplomats, the group said in a statement.

France's foreign ministry expressed its "deep concern" on Tuesday over Basheer's detention.

Egypt's foreign ministry on Wednesday said it rejected France's "interference in an Egyptian internal affair and the attempt to influence the investigations".

The ministry stressed in a statement that Egypt respects the rule of law and equality before it.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has overseen a extensive crackdown on political dissent that has gradually tightened in recent years.

Sisi has said there are no political prisoners in Egypt and that the government supports human rights by providing basic needs such as jobs and housing.

(Reporting by Cairo bureau, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Mark Potter)