CAIRO: Thirty-one protestors facing criminal charges after their participation in a peaceful demonstration Tuesday have been released, amid condemnation of the violent response to the protest by riot police.
“This intimidation of opposition activists and government critics must end immediately, said Malcolm Smart, Middle East and North Africa director at Amnesty International, in a statement released Tuesday evening.
“The Egyptian authorities should demonstrate their commitment to human rights by allowing and protecting peaceful protests.
A small demonstration of around 60, mostly young, people in Cairo calling for political change and an end to the state of emergency was violently broken up by plain-clothed policemen, who punched and kicked demonstrators as they were dragged away.
Both Amnesty and Human Rights Watch report that journalists were prevented from covering the demonstration and some had their equipment confiscated.
Ibrahim Kamal Eddin, a journalist with Nahdet Masr newspaper, told Human Rights Watch (HRW) that he was surrounded by more than 10 security men only 10 minutes after arriving at the protest.
“A plainclothes security official grabbed me by my neck; I said ‘I’m a journalist,’ and he said, ‘Screw all journalists; get out of here’.
A foreign journalist was manhandled and briefly detained as he attempted to reclaim his confiscated camera, HRW said.
“I saw the kids being arrested on the side street screaming so I went closer to take some pictures. A security officer came up to me and grabbed my arm. There were maybe seven of them around me trying to get it away but it was wrapped around my hand so I fell and they dragged me a bit and one guy kicked me, the journalist is quoted as saying in the HRW statement issued Wednesday.
“They managed to take my camera away from me so I tried to get it back and I went down to the garage to ask where my camera was and they pulled me into the police truck. There were three people already in there, but after around five minutes they came and let two of us go.
Testimonies published on the Front for the Defense of Egypt’s Protestors website also describe indiscriminate violence against male and female protestors by security personnel.
Ramy Raouf, a volunteer with the Front for the Defense of Egypt’s Protestors, said that in total, 106 protestors were detained in Cairo. Most of them were taken to Madinat El-Salam’s Central Security Camp on the outskirts of Cairo, although two female protestors, Jeanette Abdel-Alim and Safaa Suleiman were released on Cairo’s Desert Road in a “deserted place, allegedly after being beaten by policemen. Twenty other detainees were also left on Cairo’s Ring Road.
Thirty-one detainees appeared before the Central Cairo public prosecution office in the early hours of Wednesday morning, charged with threatening the safety of public transportation, obstructing the law, interfering with the work of public authorities, assault of public employees, membership of an organization that advocates undermining the pillars on which the regime rests and destruction of Central Security Forces’ helmets and shields.
The public prosecution office ordered that they detainees be released Wednesday morning.
In its statement, HRW pointed out that both international human rights treaties ratified by Egypt and the Egyptian Constitution guarantee the right to peaceful protest. It added however that two laws passed during the British occupation of Egypt in 1914 and 1923 require notification in advance for demonstrations and penalize demonstrators who take part in unannounced or unapproved demonstrations.
HRW considers both these laws “contrary to current international legal norms.
Organizers of Tuesday’s planned march from Cairo’s Tahrir Square to the People’s Assembly had notified Cairo’s Security Directorate in advance that they planned to stage it. The Security Directorate subsequently announced that permission for the march and any kind of protest had been denied.
“The Egyptian authorities respond with lawless brutality to protesters peacefully demanding restoration of their human rights, Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, is quoted as saying in HRW’s statement.
“Let today’s beating and arrests of demonstrators remind countries that finance and arm the Egyptian government what their ally is really all about.
Speaking on his Twitter account, Mohamed ElBaradei, leader of the National Coalition for Change, meanwhile said, “Detentions and beatings during peaceful demonstration is [sic] an insult to the dignity of every Egyptian. Shame.