Interior minister warns Egyptians against using Internet to jeopardize national security

Egypt’s interior minister on Friday accused those reporting cases of alleged police torture of being part of an “unpatriotic campaign” to tarnish the country’s police forces and warned Egyptians against using the Internet to jeopardize national security.

Information posted on the Internet that poses a hazard to the government “is a very dangerous crime — a crime of which its victims include individuals, the state and its institutions,” Habib el-Adly told state-run Egyptian television during a more than one-hour long interview. He did not elaborate, and it was not immediately clear if el-Adly was specifically referring to recent controversial postings on the Internet by bloggers.

Human rights groups have accused Egypt of suppressing freedom of expression, most recently over the arrest of a 22-year-old blogger who is on trial for insulting Islam and causing sectarian strife for his Internet writings.

Egyptian authorities in November arrested Abdel Kareem Nabil, who often denounced Islamic authorities and criticized President Hosni Mubarak on his Arabic-language blog. His prosecution is Egypt’s first of a blogger.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned Egypt’s arrests of bloggers, and media watchdog Reporters Without Borders included Egypt in a recently released “Enemies of the Internet” report.

Egypt also has come under criticism by rights groups and activists after a video was widely circulated on the Internet appearing to show a man being tortured by police.

Rights groups have said the man, a bus driver, was tortured at a police station in Cairo a year ago. Police say he was detained for attempting to stop an argument, and though he was released without being charged at the time, earlier this month he was sentenced to three months in prison for resisting authorities.

El-Adly warned Egyptians not to generalize individual cases, saying “torture is prohibited.”

“Many people are upset about what was reported by some videos, newspapers and some critics who were trying to increase the view of police hostility,” el-Adly said during the interview. “I consider this to be an intended unpatriotic campaign to hit a national service that seeks stability in the country.”

The interior minister also accused Egypt’s largest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, of illegal activities.

“The strength that they proclaim that they possess comes in the form of conducting illegal activities. This is not a strength, this is a weakness,” el-Adly said during the interview.

Egyptian authorities in recent months have stepped up their ongoing crackdown on the officially banned Islamist group.

Since late last year, police have detained at least 140 Muslim Brotherhood members, including its No. 3 member after Brotherhood students staged a military-style parade during a protest at Al-Azhar University, Egypt’s foremost Islamic institute.

“Azhar’s incident was a shocking surprise for those who believed in the Brotherhood’s democracy and good intentions,” el-Adly said.

The Brotherhood has been banned since 1954, on allegations that it aims to set up an Islamic government. The group renounced violence in the 1970s and won 88 out of the 454 parliament seats in the 2005 legislative elections, with its candidates running as independents.

“We are confronting this movement as an illegal movement. The Brotherhood’s history pages cannot be forgotten,” el-Adly said.

The interior minister also predicted that Egypt this year would witness an increase in crime, drug offenses and terror and security risks.


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