Rights Activists Cry Foul After Arrest of Protesters

 Human rights activists condemned the arrest of at least 30 protesters at demonstrations held on 26 and 27 April, held in support of pro-reform judges.

Among other groups, the South Centre for Human Rights Studies called in a press statement for the “immediate release of all those detained for supporting independence”.

According to various eyewitness accounts and television broadcasts, police beat protesters with sticks in a bid to break up the demonstrations, which were held in a district of the capital that contains the journalists’ and lawyers’ syndicates, the Judges’ Club and the Supreme Court.

“There were incidents of extreme violence against protesters who had been demonstrating peacefully in solidarity with reformist judges,” said Sally Sami, programme coordinator for the Arabic Human Rights Information Network (HRInfo).

Dozens of protesters were arrested, including high-profile members of the Kifaya and Muslim Brotherhood opposition groups. “At least 19 protesters were arrested yesterday, followed by another 10 today,” said HRInfo director Gamal Eid.

According to Sami, hundreds of police and plainclothes security forces blocked off the entrances of the two syndicate buildings, trapping some inside. There have also been unconfirmed reports of journalists being threatened with detention if they leave syndicate premises, which they have occupied since protests began on 26 April.

According to a statement by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, some judges taking part in the protest have also been locked inside the Judges’ Club premises. This is indicative, the statement noted, of the “serial use of violence against reformist judges and their supporters”.

Their was no immediate response from the government to the statements.

The demonstrations were initially organised to express solidarity with a number of reformist judges who stepped up demands for judicial independence following parliamentary elections last year.

Two high-profile members of the Judges’ Club are currently facing dismissal by a disciplinary committee for allegedly damaging the reputation of the Egyptian judiciary by publicly discussing alleged electoral violations.

As of press time, there were no reports on the disciplinary committee’s decision on the two judges’ fate.