Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Egyptian Police Assault Pro-Democracy Protesters

AL-MASRY AL-YOUM
Another protest met with violence
Tue, 13/04/2010
Lina Attalah

Kefaya, security clash, High Court of Justice

Protests erupted on Tuesday outside the Supreme Judicial Court in downtown Cairo, with demonstrators demanding constitutional amendments and an end to Egypt's longstanding state of emergency. Organized by different political opposition groups, Tuesday's protests followed larger demonstrations on 6 April, during which more than 100 activists were arrested by police.

“Today’s protest exploits the momentum gained by the establishment of the National Association for Change (NAC), which served to stir up the stagnant water,” George Ishaq, spokesperson for the pro-democracy Kifaya movement, told Al-Masry Al-Youm.

The NAC was recently founded by Mohamed ElBaradei, former International Atomic Energy Agency director and would-be presidential candidate, who, since returning to Cairo in February, has embarked on a political campaign for constitutional change.

“Down with the emergency law!" leftist activist Kamal Khalil shouted to the crowd. "Down with military tribunals!”

According to Mohamed Waked, an activist at the Cairo-based Center for Socialist Studies, the overall number of demonstrators fluctuated throughout the duration of the protest. “We began with about 50 people," he said. "When the demonstration reached its peak, we were about 300.”

Witnesses said on Twitter that they saw police using unwarranted violence against protesters. According to the Front for the Defense of Egypt’s Protesters (FDEP), police beat up some demonstrators and detained one activist.

Nevertheless, the protest continued into the afternoon for a full three hours. “I saw a lot of persistence," said Waked. "At one point, protesters attempted to break the police cordon and begin the march, but they were immediately stopped.”

“I saw two cases of people fainting after being beaten up by police," Mohammed Fattah of the liberal Ghad Party told Al-Masry Al-Youm. "One of them was punched in the nose. I also saw an asthmatic man from the 6 April movement being strangled by policemen.”

According to an FDEP press release, 6 April activist Bahaa Saber was beaten, put in a taxi and taken to an unknown location by police. Fattah says that that he saw the son of Ghad Party leader Ayman Nour being pulled down to the ground and beaten.

"The Egyptian government acts as a role model to the rest of the region," said Ishaq. "If police hadn't cracked down on protesters as they did, the Kuwaiti government would not have deported ElBaradei supporters."

Earlier this week, the Kuwaiti government arrested and deported 21 Egyptian pro-ElBaradei activists on charges of illegal assembly.

Yet despite the heavy-handed police response, Waked was encouraged by the fact that Tuesday's protest attracted a number of passers by. “It was one of the rare protests in which bystanders constantly gathered next to the demonstration," he said. "In some cases, police had to dismantle these informal gatherings.”

Commenting on the "momentum" referred to by Ishaq, Waked expressed the belief that much of the public was readier than ever to take to the streets. “People no longer want to hear words," he said. "They want action.”

*Photo by: Mohamed Abdel Ghany

***
The Daily News Egypt
Egyptian Police Clash with Kefaya Protesters