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CAIRO (Reuters) - Amnesty International urged Egyptian authorities on Tuesday to release 24 Nubian activists detained last week on charges of protesting without permission as they rallied for resettlement on the banks of the Nile river.

For half a century, Egypt's Nubians have lobbied the government in Cairo for a return to their homelands on the banks of the upper Nile, desperate to reclaim territory their ancestors first cultivated 3,000 years ago.

"Egyptian authorities have long since marginalized Nubians, ignoring their demands to return to their historical lands and treating Nubian activism as suspicious on security grounds," Amnesty International's North Africa Campaigns Director Najia Bounaim said in a statement.

"Instead of flagrantly flouting Nubians' rights to freedom of expression and assembly by continuing to detain them over their peaceful protest, the authorities must release these 24 activists from custody immediately."

According to the statement, the activists had not marched far before they were surrounded and beaten by security officers.

The activists' lawyer, Mohamed Abdel Salam, told Reuters last week they were also charged with incitement of protests and disrupting public safety.

(Reporting by Nadine Awadalla and Mohamed Abdellah; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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Reuters