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A leading rights group has called for the "immediate release" of those arrested in Egypt following rare protests on Friday demanding the resignation of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

In a statement on Saturday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the Egyptian government to "protect the right to peaceful protest", after dozens were arrested for demonstrations across the country.

The rare display of dissent against el-Sisi's rule erupted in the capital, Cairo, and other cities, where hundreds of Egyptians took to the streets, chanting slogans including "Leave, Sisi!" and demanding the "fall of the regime".

At least 74 people have been arrested, a security source told the AFP news agency, while plain-clothes police officers patrolled the streets of downtown Cairo.

"President el-Sisi's security agencies have time and again used brutal force to crush peaceful protests," said Michael Page, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at HRW.

"The authorities should recognise that the world is watching and take all necessary steps to avoid a repetition of past atrocities."

El-Sisi, who flew on Friday night to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly next week, is yet to comment on Friday's protests.

"Egypt's international partners, as well as the UN secretary-general, should call on the Egyptian government to respect people's rights to freedom of expression and assembly," the HRW statement said.

After overnight clashes with the protesters, security forces on Saturday maintained tight control on Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the 2011 Arab Spring revolution that unseated longtime leader Hosni Mubarak.

The country effectively banned protests under a 2013 law and a state of emergency is still in full effect.

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Egyptian protesters
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