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Egypt:Crackdown on protesters condemned

Amnesty International today condemned a crackdown on demonstrations in Egypt amid continuing protests against poverty, police abuse and corruption.

Amnesty has repeated its call on the Egyptian authorities to refrain from using excessive force against demonstrators, and criticised the actions of security forces yesterday.

Reports of ongoing demonstrations in Egypt today follow a day of protest in Cairo, Alexandria and other major cities that saw at least three deaths, rubber bullets and tear gas employed against crowds, beatings of detainees and at least 500 protesters arrested in the largest demonstrations seen in Egypt in decades.

The Egyptian Ministry of Interior issued a warning that protests today will not be tolerated and those arrested will be prosecuted.

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Programme Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said:

“Security forces must be held in check.

“We fear that the Ministry’s warning signals the authorities' readiness to unleash the full ferocity of the security forces with their track record of abuses.”

Instead of threatening demonstrators, Amnesty is urging the Egyptian authorities to open a proper investigation into the killings of protestors and hold accountable anyone found responsible.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Interior announced today that 500 protesters have been arrested. Amnesty is concerned that some have been detained simply for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and assembly. Others who may have been arrested on suspicion of violent acts must be charged with a recognisably criminal offence and tried in fair proceedings or otherwise released.

Amnesty has also received reports accusing the Egyptian authorities of blocking Twitter, and the video-sharing website Bambuser (both companies have officially confirmed that they were blocked in Egypt yesterday). Amid further reports that mobile phone networks have also been blocked in some areas, Amnesty has been unable to reach a number of human rights activist on the phone.

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui added:
“These blocks on communication show that the government is trying to stop the world from knowing what is happening in Egypt, and to cut off demonstrators from each other.”

Undue restrictions and sweeping measures under the nearly 30 years of state of emergency have routinely been used by the Egyptian authorities to quash the legitimate exercise of the rights to peaceful protest and assembly in violation of Article 21 of the ICCPR which guarantees the right to freedom of assembly.

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