Police detain dozens of anti-Mubarak protesters
Egyptian riot police clashed with demonstrators opposed to the government of President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo. Rights group Amnesty International condemned the state's violent handling of the situation which saw as many as 90 demonstrators arrested.
By News Wires (text)
REUTERS - Egyptian protesters demanding an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule scuffled with security forces on Tuesday and scores were detained, witnesses and security sources said.
“Down, down, Hosni Mubarak,” a group of more than 200 chanted as they tried to gather in central Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Police hauled away a group of about a dozen protesters, shouting “freedom, freedom” near parliament.
The pro-reform group behind the protest, the Sixth of April Youth, is seeking constitutional amendments and an end to an emergency law that sanctions indefinite detentions. Egypt holds a parliament election this year and a presidential vote in 2011.
Hundreds of riot police were stationed across the capital, encircling small groups of protesters.
Police beat some people with sticks and dragged dozens away, witnesses said. They also chased off reporters and seized cameras being used by media.
Such demonstrations are rare in Egypt, an important U.S. ally in the region, and are usually swiftly quashed by security forces.
“We are seeking to do away with injustice and other bad things,” screamed Meena Samir, a student at Cairo University.
The Sixth of April group was formed after April 2008 clashes in the Nile Delta between police and workers demanding more pay. Three people were killed.
Rights group Amnesty International condemned what it called the state’s violent response to Tuesday’s protests.
“The Egyptian authorities should demonstrate their commitment to human rights by allowing and protecting peaceful protests,” Amnesty’s regional head Malcolm Smart said.
A security source said about 60 people had been detained in central Cairo for demonstrating without a permit, while Amnesty and April 6 said more than 90 were held.
Men in plain clothes with holstered guns hauled some demonstrators away.
Mubarak’s National Democratic Party is expected to win an overwhelming majority in parliament. But human rights groups, which have long complained of manipulation of Egyptian voting, are calling for international oversight of the elections.
Mubarak, 81, has not said whether he will run for a sixth presidential term but, if he does not, many Egyptians believe he will try to hand power to his politican son, Gamal, 46.
Rules outlined in the constitution make it almost impossible for any candidate to mount a realistic challenge for the presidency without the backing of Mubarak’s ruling party.
“What we are calling for is political freedom for Egyptians through peaceful means. Our aim is to instigate political movement among the people to demand their rights,” Omar Ali, a April 6 movement organiser, told Reuters before the protest.
One group of more than 20 protesters that included opposition politician Ayman Nour, who came a distant second in the 2005 presidential race, was blocked by security from reaching the square, witnesses said.
After the protest, April 6 leader Ahmed Maher said the group would file a lawsuit against the Interior Ministry. “This shows the fear of the ruling (party) of any opposition—despite its claims that it allows democracy,” he said.
The Arabic satellite channel Al-Jazeera reported that Egyptian police confiscated tapes from one of its TV crew covering the demonstrations in Cairo.
The April 6 group and another group called Kefaya (Enough) are Egypt’s two active anti-government movements. The main political opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, has a minority in parliament but has tended to avoid street protests.
Tuesday’s march was supported by Nour’s liberal Ghad (Tomorrow) opposition party
dromedician Video — April 06, 2010 — Egyptian police on Tuesday beat and dragged off protesters to disperse a gathering of a few dozen in downtown Cairo calling for constitutional reforms and fairer presidential elections.
Several dozen protesters managed to briefly assemble in front of the upper house of parliament chanting ''freedom'' and calling for changes in the constitution before plainclothes police and anti-riot squads attacked them.
Plainclothes officers dragged demonstrators out of the crowd and threw them into waiting trucks. Young women among the protesters collapsed on the ground, weeping after they were attacked and their friends were taken away.
Police later pursued smaller groups of protesters through Cairo streets, knocking them down and arresting them if they attempted to chant. A security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to talk to the media, said around 60 people were detained.
Demonstrations are illegal under Egypt's three-decade old emergency law. Media crews were also attacked and photographers' cameras were confiscated.