Fayami is known for his role in the 2008 protests in the industrial city of al-Mahalla al-Kubra

Egyptian authorities have detained four people, including an Australian journalist and an Egyptian labour activist, on suspicion that they had distributed cash to workers and incited them to take part in a strike demanding an end to army rule, the government-run Al-Ahram has said.

Austin Mackelland Kamal el-Fayoumi were detained in Mahalla on Saturday along with Aliya Alwy, their Egyptian translator and Derek Ludovici, a US student. 

Fayoumi, who was interviewed by Al Jazeera last April, is known for his role in the 2008 protests in the industrial city of al-Mahalla al-Kubra north of Cairo that inspired the April 6 movement.

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The case has been referred to the prosecutor general for investigation, al-Ahram said.

"Our car got rocked and beaten against the glass ... got called all sorts of things. Police escorted us to station," Alwy posted on her Twitter account before their detention.

Following their detention she tweeted on Saturday evening that they were being handed over to intelligence services.

"Charges brought against [us] of inciting protest and vandalism. Witnesses have been produced to confirm it."

Activists and commentators have tweeted developments using the hashtags #freeaustin and #freealiya.

Mackell had tweeted on Friday "Logging off for the night now, tomorrow will be heading to #Mahalla to see how the #Feb11 strike goes there."

'Incite people to protest'

General Mostafa Baz, police chief of the northern Gharbiya province, told reporters the four were suspected of having co-ordinated over the internet to meet in Mahalla, which has a history of labour strikes, to "incite people to protest".

The Australian Foreign Ministry said an Australian national was detained in Mahalla and that the embassy in Cairo was seeking advice from Egyptian police on possible charges arising from the arrest.

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"Consular officials from the Australian embassy in Cairo have spoken to the man ... He has confirmed he is being treated appropriately by local police authorities," the ministry said in a statement.

Accusations of alleged foreign meddling in Egyptian politics have increased in recent weeks.

Authorities in Cairo are prosecuting 43 foreign and Egyptian activists, including about 20 Americans, who had worked for pro-democracy groups, including US -based organisations.

Activists had called for a nationwide strike on Saturday to mark the first anniversary of the toppling of former president Hosni Mubarak from power and to press demands for a faster end to the rule of the military council that replaced him.

The Egyptian army has previously been involved in the detention and torture of anti-government campaigners.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies