Mass arrest of protesters, journalists reported at Defense Ministry

Mass arrest of protesters, journalists reported at Defense Ministry

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Sat, 05/05/2012 - 10:39

The military prosecution has decided to detain 179 protesters for 15 days after being accused of various charges in Friday’s protests in front of the Defense Ministry, a local rights watchdog has said.

The Front to Defend Egypt's Protesters has documented the names of 179 protesters who would be detained for 15 days on charges of assaulting army forces, joining a group to undermine public security and assembling on public roads and hampering public transportation.

They are also charged with gathering in a military location that they were prohibited from assembling in.

On Friday, protesters against the country's military rulers clashed with troops at the Defense Ministry, leaving one soldier dead and 373 people wounded. Later, the army imposed an overnight curfew around the area surrounding the ministry.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemns the violent response by the army, and "stresses the people's right" to demonstrate in a peaceful manner, his deputy spokesperson Eduardo Del Buey said on Friday.

While following the forcible breakup of the sit-in in Abbasseya, the Front to Defend Egypt’s Protesters detected several violations committed by the military.

The violations include the haphazard arrest of people around the Defense Ministry. The front also said reporters were particularly targeted.

The military judiciary is investigating the incidents even though it is a party to the dispute, which casts doubts about the impartiality of the investigations, it added.

Seven protesters were arrested in front of the Suez Governorate Building and were referred to military prosecution.

Reports about the number of people arrested are mixed. Local right’s group No Military Trials for Civilians has provided the names of 329 detainees in the protests, including 18 females.

But the Front to Defend Egypt’s Protesters said in a statement that around 220 people were arrested, some of whom are in hospital — six detainees in Helmeyet al-Zaitoun hospital and 12 in Saray al-Qobba hospital.

The front said the army arrested 16 females, 14 of whom were detained and one released. The front also received reports claiming dozens of people were detained at the Nour Mosque in Abbasseya before being referred to military prosecution.

Even though some of the arrested people sustained heavy injuries, the front’s lawyers said the victims were not asked how the injuries happened.

The violations also included beating and harassing journalists before arresting them.

At least 18 journalists have been assaulted, injured, or arrested in the past three days while covering the sit-in at the Defense Ministry, said the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

"Authorities cannot stand by while journalists are being beaten — at times so viciously that their lives are put at risk," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. "We call on the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to identify the attackers and bring them to justice immediately, as well as to release journalists in custody. Journalists must be allowed to carry out their work without threat of physical assault or arrest."

Virginie Nguyen, a Belgian photojournalist who works for Egypt Independent, was injured and later arrested by the army.

Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr satellite station said soldiers arrested a television crew from the January 25 channel, which is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. According to the channel’s page on Facebook, military police confiscated some of their equipment.

Reporters from Al-Badeel and Al-Masry Al-Youm were arrested as well.

Lawyers were initially prevented from entering the military prosecution headquarters, and when they were finally allowed in, they were held up again because they did not have permission for access from the prosecution.

A female lawyer with the Front to Defend Egypt’s Protesters was prevented from entering and told females were not allowed in after 4 pm.