CAIRO (AFP) – Egyptian police on Tuesday beat up demonstrators demanding an end to the emergency law that dates back to 1981 and arrested dozens of protesters, organisers told AFP, as Amnesty International said more than 90 people were detained.
“The police beat up protesters with clubs,” said Esraa Abdel Fattah of the so-called April 6 group, which had urged people to take to the streets to demand an end to the emergency law and amendments to the constitution.
Abdel Fattah said “dozens” of people were arrested as they gathered in Tahrir Square in central Cairo, before a planned march to parliament.
“We could not leave Tahrir. Policemen in civilian clothes prevented us,” Abdel Fattah said, adding that dozens of protesters were arrested when the demonstrators tried to flee the area.
According to another organiser police rounded up 70 demonstrators.
“We’ve tallied up the numbers from different gathering points and 70 people have been arrested,” said Georges Ishaq, the spokesman of the National Assembly for Change of which April 6 is a member.
Hussein Abdel Ghani of Al-Jazeera television told AFP his cameramen were searched by police and their films confiscated.
Human rights group Amnesty International condemned the arrests and violence, saying in a statement that “more than 90 people were detained in Cairo for taking part in demonstrations calling for political reform.”
“The demonstrators were also calling for an end to a 29-year government-imposed state of emergency, which has been used to curb protests, freedom of expression and abuse other human rights,” Amnesty said.
“This intimidation of opposition activists and government critics must end immediately,” Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa director Malcolm Smart is quoted as saying.
“The Egyptian authorities should demonstrate their commitment to human rights by allowing and protecting peaceful protests,” he said, calling on Egyptian authorities to release the protesters.
Egypt has been under emergency law since the assassination of president Anwar Sadat in 1981 by Islamists. It has repeatedly come under international criticism for maintaining the status quo under which the authorities can arrest and detain suspects outside of the normal process.