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Egypt: Human Rights Protests
May 22, 2006 (060522)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
Despite promises of liberalization, repression is continuing
against human rights reformers in Egypt, and U.S. annual aid to
Egypt of some $1.7 billion is expected to continue at the same
level in the next fiscal year. In addition to critiques from
international human rights organizations, Egyptian bloggers are
increasingly prominent in disseminating critique of the regime in
both English and Arabic.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains a statement by the Egyptian
Ogranisation for Human Rights and other Egyptian civil society
groups protesting the latest repressive actions, and several
reports from Human Rights Watch on recent events. For regular news
and commentary and links to other activist blogs in Egypt, see
For a blog from prison by one of the Egyptian bloggers arrested earlier this month, see
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
"No" to the Police State
Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights
11 May, 2006
The organizations signing below express their vehement anxiety
concerning the totalitarian attitude used against the reform
movement and civil society, using an iron fist to suppress peaceful
demonstrations in support of the judiciary and political activists
in Egypt, manifested in the arrests of the demonstrators in front
of the Judges Club.
The total number of the arrested reached 48 persons, among them 12
persons were arrested on Monday 24/4/2006, 16 persons on Wednesday
26/5/2006, 12 persons on Thursday 27/4/2006 in front of the High
Judiciary House, and 8 persons on Sunday 7/6/2006 in front of South
Cairo Court after using force with the demonstrators.
The return to the police state was obviously confirmed by the
extension of the state of emergency which is applied since 1981,
and was extended to 2008 reaching a total of 27 years under the
harsh decrees of the Emergency Law.
It became very clear by the beginning of 2006, when punishments
were applied to those who criticized the parliamentary elections
results, which lead to presenting both judges Hisham El Bastawesy
and Mahmoud Mekki to the Qualification Committee charged with what
is their normal right to freedom of opinion and expression
including issuing reports revealing the forging of the
parliamentary elections in some constituencies.
This trial is considered a violation to the norms of fair trial
especially when the suspects belong to a high judicial institution
such as the Court of Cassation.
In contradiction with what the Prime Minister announced to use the
Emergency Law only in cases of terrorism and drug-dealing cases and
not to suppress political movements, syndicates and political
parties. However, violence was used against political activists, as
they were arrested and subjected to physical assaults. All the
arrested persons were referred to State Security Prosecutor by the
decree of Military Ruling No 1/1981 amended by Presidential Decree
1/2004 which added Law 14/1923 and Law 10/1914 to crimes viewed by
the State Security (Emergency) Attorney.
This new violent attitude used by security forces against peaceful
demonstrators affirms the government's new tendency to use violence
as a tool to punish the opposition, referring to the assaults on
Judge Mahmoud Hamza, head of North Cairo Court, and the physical
assaults on Nadia Abu el Magd, the reporter of the Associated
Press, in addition to the assaults on Al Jazeera crew and
confiscating their camera, and arresting more than 300 person and
detaining them in an unknown place, where some of them were
subjected to beating. It's worth mentioning that the Egyptian
security forces now developed a new squad, they call it the karate
squad, that dressed in civilian clothes and they join the
demonstrations and attack the demonstrators.
Accordingly, the signing organizations demand the following:
1 - Fulfilling the Prime Minister's promise not to use the
Emergency Law against political opposition.
2 - The immediate release of all detainees.
3 - Accelerating the finalization of the Judicial Authority Law to
be presented to the Peoples Assembly.
4 - Interrogating the police men who perpetrated the assaults and
presenting them to justice.
5 - Forming a committee of MP's to investigate any cases of using
Emergency Law against political activists, syndicates or political
Organizations signing the statement:
The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, Cairo Institute for
Human Rights Studies, The Arab Organization for Judicial Reform,
Prisoners Aid Association, Hisham Mubarak Center, Syndicates and
Labor Services House, The Egyptian Center for Women's Rights,
Development of Democracy Group, The Arab Center for Independency of
Judges and Lawyers, The Egyptian Association for Increasing Social
Participation, The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights,
Andalusia Center for Tolerance Studies
Egypt: Hundreds More Protesters Arrested
Muslim Brotherhood Leaders
Among Detained as Repression Intensifies
Human Rights Watch
(New York, May 19, 2006) - The Egyptian government's campaign to
suppress peaceful dissent escalated today with the arrests of
hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood and leftist demonstrators in Cairo
and Alexandria, Human Rights Watch said today. As in previous
incidents over the past several weeks security forces also beat,
kicked and clubbed demonstrators.
"This is another grim day for Egypt's supposed commitment to
political reform," said Joe Stork, deputy director of the Middle
East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch. "People are
trying to gather peacefully to support critics of the government,
which responds by putting them behind bars or beating them into
In a related development, a Supreme Judicial Council disciplinary
tribunal today exonerated Judge Mahmud Mekki on charges that he had
"disparaged the Supreme Judicial Council" and "talked to the press
about political affairs." But on the same grounds, it issued a
rebuke and denied a promotion to Judge Hisham al-Bastawisi, who is
in a Cairo hospital after suffering a heart attack early Wednesday
Today's demonstration, like others in recent weeks, was in support
of the two judges, whose calls for judicial independence and clean
elections have angered the government and the ruling National
In a separate development, a Cairo appeals court today upheld the
December 2005 conviction of former presidential candidate, Ayman
Nur, an outspoken dissident. In what appear to have been
politically motivated charges, the government claimed that Nur had
forged signatures on the application to register his political
party. Nur, a former member of parliament, was President Hosni
Mubarak's leading challenger in Egypt's first contested
presidential election last September. Human Rights Watch monitored
his trial, which was characterized by serious irregularities and
did not meet the standards for a free and fair judicial proceeding.
Egyptian authorities say that this morning they arrested 240 Muslim
Brothers and 14 activists with the Kifaya ("Enough") opposition
umbrella group. The Muslim Brotherhood put the number arrested in
Cairo at around 400, and said that scores of additional arrests
also took place in Alexandria. Kifaya coordinator George Ishak told
reporters that demonstrators from his group were also beaten and
arrested in Abbasiyya, another Cairo neighborhood.
Leading Brotherhood members were among those detained today,
including member of parliament Muhsin Radi, Muhammad Mursi, a
member of the group's executive bureau, and `Issam al-`Irian, a
prominent spokesman for the group and leading member of the
"The Egyptian government should immediately release all those
arrested today unless it can show that a particular individual was
engaged in violence," Stork said. "Coming together for peaceful
protests is not a crime."
Egypt: Police Assault Demonstrators, Journalists
Hundreds Arrested in Cairo Crackdown
Human Rights Watch
[Excerpts only; for full statement including additional eyewitness
reports, visit the Human Rights Watch website.]
(New York, May 13, 2006) - Thousands of Egyptian security forces
sealed off much of downtown Cairo on Thursday and violently
attacked protestors attempting to demonstrate in support of
reformist judges, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch
called on President Hosni Mubarak to speak out against the police
violence and hold accountable those responsible.
Beatings by plainclothes officers and thugs left dozens injured.
According to defense lawyers, authorities arrested 255 persons in
connection with the incidents. State Security prosecutors have
ordered them all held for 15 days pending further investigation on
charges of intent to assault property and people, obstructing the
authorities' work, endangering public transport, disseminating
propaganda and insulting the head of state and public employees.
"The government is apparently determined to stamp out peaceful
dissent - literally," said Joe Stork, deputy director of the Middle
East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch. "It seems
that President Mubarak sees growing popular support for the
reformist judges as a real challenge to his authoritarian ways."
The incidents occurred when demonstrators tried to reach the area
around Cairo's High Court for a 10 a.m. rally in support of two
judges, Hisham al-Bastawissi and Mahmud Makki, who were facing a
disciplinary hearing in the court as a result of their vocal
criticism of fraudulent parliamentary elections late last year.
President Mubarak has remained silent in the face of the escalating
Security forces began to deploy in the area around the court area
Wednesday night, and numbered in the thousands by mid-morning.
Plainclothes agents from State Security Investigations (SSI), as
well as uniformed Central Security forces moved quickly and in many
instances brutally to disperse and punish the demonstrators. The
demonstrators at first numbered between 500 and 1,000, according to
human rights activist Hossam Bahgat.
"I saw them approaching Tal`at Harb Square," he told Human Rights
"The crowd was overwhelmingly male, and many were carrying Qur'ans.
They were forced into `Adli Street. I was walking at the rear and
to the side, with some journalists. Then from behind came a
contingent of plainclothes security, about 50. I thought maybe they
were there to buffer the demonstration from passersby, but suddenly
the demonstrators in front of us turned and ran back, chased by
other plainclothes from the other end. There were uniformed Central
Security forces along the sides. Guys in suits along the sides had
walkie-talkies and seemed to be directing things. Most of the
demonstrators got away, but the plainclothes officers were grabbing
individuals one by one, beating them with their fists, kicking them
while they were on the ground, hitting and kicking them as they
carried them to police trucks. I saw 15 of these attacks myself."
Rabab al-Mahdi, an activist, was with the demonstrators on `Adli
Street. "We were encircled and didn't know where to run," she told
Human Rights Watch.
"They started beating us - four men carrying away each protestor
and beating them on the head as they are dragged off. A lot were
bleeding from their faces. I saw some on the ground being trampled.
Not less than 15 were taken away. Others were shoved into side
alleys. I've never seen this level of violence or police presence.
An American resident of Cairo told Human Rights Watch that as he
walked near Tal`at Harb street: "I saw three plainclothes State
Security men coming towards us escorting a protestor, one on each
side holding him and the third officer punching him in the face and
stomach and slapping him on the head. After they passed, I noticed
a second identical incident in front of us."
Journalists came in for special punishment from the security
forces. Bahgat said that when the `Adli Street demonstrators
regrouped nearby on 26 July Street:
"I saw there a smaller group, between 200 and 300, mainly Muslim
Brothers and Labor Party, shouting slogans. There were cameramen
from al-Jazeera and Reuters. Plainclothes security got there
quickly and targeted the cameramen. Ten of them surrounded the
al-Jazeera guy, hitting him in the face. They confiscated his tape
and carried him away. They kept hitting him. He was asking the
senior officers standing there to help him, to stop the attack.
They just stood there."
According to al-Jazeera, plainclothes police beat cameraman Yasir
Sulaiman. He told the network that when the team moved to cover the
protest, "Suddenly six security men attacked me, trying to take my
camera. When I refused, they started beating me." Al-Jazeera
reporter Lina al-Ghadban, who was with Sulaiman, said that police
"handpicked" him and repeatedly punched him in the face. Sulaiman
said the security forces returned the camera they had confiscated,
but without the footage he had shot.
An Egyptian-American reporter for U.S.-based newspapers told Human
Rights Watch she was across from the Caf‚ Americaine near the High
Court. "There were lots of uniformed riot police lining the
sidewalks," she said:
"Across the street, protestors were chanting and holding up
placards saying they were with the Pharmacists' Syndicate. I was
taking pictures as security rushed up, tackling the protestors and
beating them. Then I saw them attacking a cameraman and I took two
pictures of that and put away my camera. Suddenly, plainclothes men
and guys in uniform rushed me. They pulled my hair, groped me,
about five or six of them while the others just stood around. They
were shouting "camera." I was hunched over my bag, protecting it
and the camera. I was in the street, and my friends on the sidewalk
behind some cars were yelling at them to stop, that I was a
journalist. I was screaming. Then my friends finally pulled me out
of the street over a car and onto the sidewalk."
The daily al-Masri al-Yom reported today that plainclothes security
also attacked their staff photographer `Amr Abdullah, beating him,
tearing his clothes, and breaking his two cameras. Abir al-`Askari,
a writer for the weekly al-Dustour, told Human Rights Watch her
paper had asked her to cover the demonstrations and the
disciplinary hearing at the High Court. She arrived at 8 a.m. to
meet with a group that had spent the night at the Lawyers'
"I was just getting out of the taxi when five or six men ran up to
me, carried me from the cab and took me to where the Central
Security trucks and blue police microbuses were parked, at the
corner of `Abd al-Khaliq Tharwat and Ramsis streets. They beat me,
put me in a police microbus, and drove me to Sayyida Zeinab police
station. I screamed and resisted, and they beat me, pulled my hair
and my veil. Right in front of the police station they kicked me.
When people gathered and told them to stop they replied, 'She's
been committing adultery.' They took me inside to a room where the
officer claimed they sexually harassed [she named three Kifaya
activist women arrested earlier in the week]. They took my purse
and copied the messages and numbers from my phone. 'Nobody will
know where you are,' the officer said. 'You are lost.' They tore at
my clothes; my shirt buttons. They continued to slap and punch me
I was lying on the floor. He placed his shoe on my face and said,
'Anyone who comes here will get the same treatment.' I was there
about three hours. Finally they took me in the microbus to Corniche
near the Kasr al-Aini hospital and left me; I didn't have my phone
or my purse, and my clothes were torn. I had a little money in my
pocket, so I went into a shop and called the deputy editor who sent
some colleagues to pick me up."
Al-`Askari was among the women whom National Democratic Party
partisans attacked and sexually molested on May 25, 2005, during
demonstrations urging voters to boycott that day's referendum on
the ruling party's proposed presidential election amendment to the
Constitution The prosecutor general in December 2005 closed his
investigation into complaints from victims of those attacks, saying
there was not enough evidence to implicate suspects identified by
the victims. The government brought no criminal charges in the
Human Rights Watch called on President Mubarak to speak out against
the attacks by plainclothes and uniformed security officials and to
order an impartial investigation to identify those responsible and
hold them accountable.
Egypt: Award-Winning Blogger Among New Arrests
More Than 100 Now Held in Political Protests
Human Rights Watch
(New York, May 10, 2006) - Egyptian security officials arrested 11
more political reform activists, including an award-winning
blogger, Alaa Ahmed Seif al-Islam, Human Rights Watch said today.
This brings to more than 100 the number of people detained over the
past two weeks for exercising their rights to freedom of assembly
Approximately half of those arrested are members of the Muslim
Brotherhood who were putting up posters and distributing leaflets
protesting the April 30 extension of emergency rule for another two
years. The Emergency Law has been in effect since President Hosni
Mubarak came to power in October 1981. The others were detained for
demonstrating in support of a group of judges campaigning for
greater judicial independence.
"These new arrests indicate that President Mubarak intends to
silence all peaceful opposition," said Joe Stork, deputy director
of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa division.
The latest arrests occurred on May 7 near the South Cairo Court
where activists arrested on April 24 were scheduled to appear
before a judge. Police released three of the 11 new detainees, but
transferred the remaining eight to the Heliopolis state security
prosecutor, who extended their detention for 15 days. The eight
detained are: Ahmed `Abd al-Gawad, Ahmed `Abd al-Ghaffar, Alaa
Ahmed Seif al-Islam, Asma'a `Ali, Fadi Iskandar, Karim al-Sha`ir,
Nada al-Qassas and Rasha Azab.
On May 8, authorities extended for another 15 days the detention of
a dozen activists arrested on April 24. They initially faced
charges of blocking traffic, but the authorities later transferred
their cases to state security prosecutors. Yesterday, authorities
extended the detention of 28 activists arrested on April 26 and 27
for another 15 days. All those arrested between April 24 and May 7
for demonstrating now face charges of "insulting the president,"
"spreading false rumors," and "disturbing public order" under the
parallel state security legal system set up under the Emergency
According to a statement published on an activist Web site,
activists detained between April 24 and 27 have begun a hunger
strike to protest prison conditions, including threats of torture
"The activists detained over the past two weeks should be released
immediately, unharmed," Stork said. "The Egyptian government is
responsible under international law for their safety."
The campaign of judges for greater judicial independence has become
a rallying point for political reform activists. The Judges' Club,
the quasi-official professional organization for members of the
judiciary, refused to certify the results of last year's
parliamentary elections after more than 100 of the judges reported
irregularities at polling stations. In February, the
government-controlled Supreme Judicial Council stripped four of the
most vocal judges of their judicial immunity.
For the names of demonstrators detained prior to May 7, [see
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