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Military Repression Returns to Egypt

In the two weeks since the Egyptian military has overthrown Mohamed Morsi’s government, it has initiated a campaign of repression against the former officials and the Muslim Brotherhood aimed, it appears, at eliminating the Islamists as a party in Egyptian politics. Amnesty International has issued a report detailing the military’s actions. Amnesty acknowledges that “some members or supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood might have been involved in inciting or participating in violence,” but it is concerned, it says, that “others are being pursued solely for their membership or support of the Muslim Brotherhood and their peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.”

According to the Amnesty report, at least ten top officials of Morsi’s government, including Morsi himself, have “been held incommunicado since July 3 in conditions that may amount to an enforced disappearance.” The interim government, which was appointed by the military, is considering criminal charges against Morsi for inciting violence, spying and ruining the economy. At least 14 leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood and of its affiliated Freedom and Justice Party have been charging with inciting violence. They include the lawyer for the Muslim Brotherhood, who was detained while visiting prisoners at Tora prison, the head of Freedom and Justice Party, and the General Guide (leader) and Deputy General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood.

At the demonstration on July 8 at the Republican Club Guard in Cairo, where Morsi was rumored to be held, 51 demonstrators were killed, and over 650 were arrested. Amnesty interviewed some of those who were subsequently released. They reported being interrogated under severe conditions and beaten. One university student told Amnesty of being arrested by men in military uniforms:

As soon as they saw me, they told me to stop, raise my hands, and then lie on the ground face-down... They punched me, kicked me a few times, and hit me with the backs of their rifles; this lasted for about 15 minutes... There were two other men arrested near me, lying in the same position... We were left in the street like that for a few hours, and every once in a while soldiers would come, step on us, kick us and say something insulting... They eventually took us inside the Republican Guard Club, keeping us in the cells with the conscripts who were being disciplined.

Detainees reported being questioned while blindfolded (a common practice of Egypt’s security services) without shoes, socks, or shirt and having to maintain certain postures and positions at the threat of being shot. Of course, none of this is new to Egypt, but that very fact suggests that under military rule, Egypt is headed back to the dark days from which it seemed to have escaped.