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Human Rights Watch warns of underlying repression marring presidential elections

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Egyptian police arrest a Muslim Brotherhood supporter (C) following a demonstration in the Nasr City district of Cairo, on January 25, 2014. Egyptian police fired tear gas at anti-government protesters in Cairo, as the country marked the anniversary of a 2011 uprising that overthrew veteran president Hosni Mubarak.  (AFP PHOTO/MOHAMED EL-SHAHED)

Egyptian police arrest a Pprotester (C) following a demonstration in the Nasr City district of Cairo, on January 25, 2014. 

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a statement Wednesday making note of the “repressive environment that severely undermines the fairness” of Egypt’s second presidential elections in as many years.

The international rights watchdog primarily noted the crackdown on opposition which significantly limited feasible alternatives to the two lone participants in the election, former Defence Minister and leader of Mohamed Morsi’s 3 July ouster Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and Nasserist politician Hamdeen Sabahy.

“The mass arrests of thousands of political dissidents, whether Islamist or secular, has all but shut down the political arena and stripped these elections of real meaning,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The presidential election cannot mask the ongoing brutal crackdown on peaceful opposition.”

The interim authorities’ crackdown not only silenced Muslim Brotherhood affiliated protesters, but also imprisoned or detained many of the 25 January Revolution’s most prominent voices.

Journalists have not been immune to the at times violent suppression of opposition. “Egypt is currently detaining 16 journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, making it among the five worst jailers of journalists,” the statement said.

Wiki Thawra, an independent website dedicated to documenting the 2011 revolution, recently released a statement that claimed a tally of 41,163 Egyptians have been arrested from 3 July 2013 to 15 May 2014 over political, terrorist, sectarian strife, protesting and military charges.

The figures show that the day with the highest number of arrests was the dispersal of the sit-ins supporting former president Mohamed Morsi on 14 August 2013 where 2,076 were arrested, the majority of whom are from the Minya governorate in Upper Egypt.

The day of the Ramses clashes, 16 August, comes second, with 2,240 arrests and the third anniversary of the 25 January Revolution comes third with 1,491 arrested.

The total number of documented cases of military trials for civilians reached 874 during the 11-month period, 786 of whom were reported from the governorate of Marsa Matruh, located on the North Western border between Egypt and Libya.

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