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Egypt Human Rights Abuse Continues: Amnesty

Egypt Human Rights

By BEN HUBBARD   05/19/11 05:43 AM ET   AP

CAIRO -- Egyptian authorities continue to restrict freedom of assembly, torture detainees and try civilians in military courts, highlighting the urgent need for reform, Amnesty International said Thursday.

In a report released about human rights abuses during and after the Egyptian uprising that pushed President Hosni Mubarak from power on Feb. 11, the London-based rights group called on Egyptian authorities to overhaul the country's security forces to ensure accountability and prevent future violations.

Meanwhile, Egypt's military rulers announced late Wednesday that they are suspending prison sentences for 120 people who participated in protests following the revolution.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces said sentences of up to seven years imposed by a military court will be reduced to one-year suspended sentences. It wasn't clear what the 120 protesters were charged with.

The council also denied using gunfire to break up sit-ins that have continued since Mubarak's ouster.

Activists have become increasing critical in recent weeks about what they say are attempts by the military to silence dissent. The military rulers say they are urging Egyptians to stop the recurrent protests, which they say are causing decreased security and growing economic woes.

Amnesty's report said that Egyptians "deserve to see that their sacrifices were not made in vain, that the machinery of repression is completely overhauled, and that guarantees of non-repetition are consolidated in law and practice."

Such practices were among the reasons Egyptians took to the streets at the uprising's start on Jan. 25, the 123-page report said. It examined the ways the Mubarak government sought to stop the protests, first by disrupting communications networks and promising reforms, then through intimidation and violence.

At least 840 people were killed and more than 6,000 injured during the uprising, the report said. Thousands more were detained, some of them snatched from the street on their way to or from protests. Many were tortured.

The report says 189 of the dead were prisoners killed illegally by guards seeking to put down prison unrest. More than 250 prisoners were injured.

As well as detailing abuses during the uprising, the report highlighted violations by Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has run the country since Mubarak's fall.

The report accused the army of restricting freedom of assembly, torturing detainees and trying civilians in military courts.

It highlighted the case of Amr al-Beheiry, whom military police beat with sticks and arrested while he was demonstrating peacefully outside the parliament building in Cairo on Feb. 26. During his detention, military police beat him and his cousin and gave them electric shocks, the report said.

Al-Beheiry was released but soon re-arrested, apparently because other activists documented his injuries, the report found.

On March 1, a military court convicted him of assaulting a public official and breaking curfew, sentencing him to five years in prison, the report said.

Amnesty researcher Said Haddadi said the continuation of such practices would undercut Egyptians' faith in their new rulers.

"It undermines the commitments made by the current government," he said. "It also undermines the cause of those who went out on the 25th of January to call for reform."

Only accountability will restore public faith in the authorities, he said.

"Whether the violations happened during the uprising or after Mubarak, those who are found responsible for these violations must be brought to justice," he said. "Justice must be done for the people to gain trust in their institutions."

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Associated Press writer Sarah El Deeb in Cairo contributed to this report.

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Filed by Cara Parks  |