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Crackdown on protests in Egypt

May 5, 2006 | Page 2

DOZENS OF opponents of Egypt's authoritarian government were arrested after riot police attacked a demonstration in support of reformist judges who are challenging election fraud.

The protests took place April 27 as two judges, Hesham al-Bastawissi and Mahmoud Mekky, were due to be brought before a disciplinary panel after they accused the government of fraud in parliamentary elections late last year--and charged fellow judges with complicity.

Despite a heavy police presence throughout downtown Cairo, hundreds of demonstrators managed to gather in front of the Supreme Court building. They were quickly sealed off and surrounded by cops in full riot gear, carrying truncheons. The police moved in with a heavy show of force, arresting and beating the protesters.

But every time the police broke up groups of protesters, demonstrators regrouped in other locations, according to one report.

President Hosni Mubarak's government put a massive number of cops on the street in Cairo--estimated at 10,000 by the New York Times, much larger than the force deployed in the Sinai after three bombing attacks earlier in the week.

The government--appearing "overwhelmed," in the words of the Times--followed up the police attack with dozens of arrests. At least 50 activists were jailed and are expected to be held for 15 days, according to reports.

Among them are several members of the Center for Socialist Studies, which was the target of the government three years ago when five people were put on trial simply for belonging to the organization.

Mubarak's regime has continuously used repression against all signs of dissent. With discontent over human rights abuses and a crisis-prone economy continuing to grow, the government is trying to intimidate the opposition. But its hard-line tactics aren't stopping Egypt's protests from growing.

Protest the arrest of Egyptian activists with letters faxed to prosecutor Maher Abd a-Wahid at 011-202-577-4716.

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