Report: 'Egyptian army involved in torture'

The 'Guardian' reports that the Egyptian military secretly detained hundreds and possibly thousands of gov't opponents.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
February 10, 2011 03:37
2 minute read.
An Egyptian protestor kisses an army officer.

egyptian protestor kissing army officer_311. (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The Egyptian military secretly detained hundreds, or possibly thousands, of suspected government opponents since the anti-government protests against Egyptian Prime Minister Hosni Mubarak began, and some of the detainees were tortured, UK-based The Guardian reported on Wednesday.

The Guardian reported that it had spoken to detainees who said they suffered extensive beatings and other abuses by the Egyptian military. Those released gave graphic accounts of physical abuse by soldiers who accused them of acting for foreign powers, including Hamas and Israel.

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According to the report, some of the detainees were held inside the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities at the edge of Cairo's Tahrir Square and included human rights activists, lawyers, and journalists, though most have been released.

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Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights in Cairo, told the Guardian that hundreds, and possibly thousands, of ordinary people had "disappeared" into military custody across the country for no more than carrying a political flyer, attending  demonstrations or even the way they look. Many were still missing.

"Their range is very wide, from people who were at the protests or detained for breaking curfew to those who talked back at an army officer or were handed over to the army for looking suspicious or for looking like foreigners even if they were not," he said. "It's unusual and to the best of our knowledge it's also unprecedented for the army to be doing this."

Bahgat also said that the pattern of accounts from those released showed the military had been conducting a campaign to break the protests. "Some people, especially the activists, say they were interrogated about any possible links to political organizations or any outside forces. For the ordinary protesters, they get slapped around and asked: 'Why are you in Tahrir?' It seems to serve as an interrogation operation and an intimidation and deterrence."

This report came just a day after US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday  praised Egypt’s military for an “exemplary” response to the country’s political turmoil and urged the government to press forward with promised changes at “a steady pace.”

“Continuing to move forward on this and fulfilling the promises that have been made, I think, is quite critical,” said Gates, speaking to reporters at the Pentagon today after an unrelated ceremony with French Defense Minister Alain Juppe. The Egyptian military’s handling of the situation has “made a contribution to the evolution of democracy and what we’re seeing in Egypt,” Gates said.

Bloomberg contributed to this report.


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