Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Crackdown on Morsi Supporters Called Worse Than Mubarak Era

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Crackdown on Morsi Supporters Called Worse Than Mubarak Era

Article excerpt

CAIRO -- In the two months since Egyptian authorities started rounding up supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, a repressive regime has emerged here that appears to be far worse than the one political activists thought they had ended when they pushed Hosni Mubarak from office 2 1/2 years ago.

Egyptians caught in the roundup have said in interviews that they were tortured while awaiting charges. Islamist leaders claim that the government is rounding up family members in the night as leverage against them. Lawyers tasked with representing arrested Morsi supporters often are arrested when they go to be with their clients during prison interrogations. Once again, civilians are facing their charges in military courts.

"I saw torture chambers that made me wish they would shoot my husband dead," said one woman arrested the same day that her husband also was seized. "I would rather see him, the father of three children, dead than tortured," she recounted in a phone interview, her voice still shaking 10 days after her two-week detention.

The woman, who asked not to be identified for fear that she would be arrested again, said she was mistreated while in custody but hadn't been tortured. Her account matches that of other prisoners, who say they have gone on hunger strikes to protest the crowded conditions and refusals to let them see their lawyers.

Not just Morsi supporters have been arrested. A growing number of journalists and human rights advocates also have been detained, leaving fewer eyes to document what's happening.

Ahmed Helmi, a human rights lawyer who represents many of those arrested, estimated that as many as 10,000 people have been arrested since the military deposed Morsi on July 3. That is far more than human right groups' estimates of 3,000. Diplomatic officials said the number could be 5,000.

Interior Ministry spokesman Hany Abdel Latif couldn't be reached for a response. But he told the Reuters news agency Tuesday that prisoners are receiving adequate treatment and medical care. "The situation is normal," he was quoted as saying.

The government has refused to say how many people have been arrested, or who they are. That is consistent with its silence on the whereabouts of the toppled Morsi, who hasn't been since he was forced from office. Morsi had spoken by phone with his family twice in recent days, their first contacts since he was detained, his lawyer told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The lawyer, Mostafa Atteyah, told the news agency that the first call came last week and the second one two days later, and that Morsi had said he was in good health. Morsi's family has not spoken publicly for a month.

"What's going on now is worse than Mubarak's times," Helmi said. "There were raids during Mubarak's times, but never like this. The state security is back, with all its power. The arrests are very random. They want to put their hands on certain people and then tailor charges for them."

Helmi, who has been a lawyer for 23 years and defended jailed Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie in 2000 when Badie was charged with being a member of an illegal group, said he was starting to see old faces re-emerge who had all but disappeared after Mubarak's ouster. …

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