Police beat, arrest backers of dissident judges in Egypt

Thousands of riot police sealed off access to Egypt’s High Court on Thursday, beating and arresting protesters who had turned out to support two judges facing a disciplinary panel because they had accused the government of election fraud.

The focus was a small demonstration over the treatment of the two judges and in support of more than 80 judges who had been staging a sit-in for more than a week at the stately old Judge’s Club to demand an independent judiciary.

The persistent demands by the group, which represents thousands of judges across the country, has united a wide swath of political opposition.

Thursday morning, massive green troop carriers rumbled into the center of the city and deployed more than 3,000 troops, a number that swelled to about 10,000 by midday, according to witnesses and videotapes. Witnesses said at least 50 demonstrators were arrested, but there was no way to verify that figure.

The demonstrators had gathered to support Mahmoud Mekky and Hesham Bastawisi, the two judges brought before the disciplinary panel because they had accused the government and other judges of forgery in connection with the last parliamentary elections.

Their case was postponed for two weeks while the panel considered several defense motions.