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Egyptian Rights Groups Cite Official Abuses


Human rights groups in Egypt say government abuse of innocent civilians is increasing because of the international war on terrorism.

Torture in police stations, illegal imprisonment, and crackdowns on freedom of speech and press; those are some of the violations that Egyptian human rights groups allege are on rise as a result of the international war on terrorism.

In its annual report, the Arab Organization for Human Rights expressed "deep concern over the repercussions of the international campaign against terror." It said there is "great confusion between dealing with terrorism and executing certain policies."

The secretary-general of Egypt's Organization of Human Rights, Hafez Abou Saada, says as many as 14,000 people are in Egyptian jails who have not been charged with any crime, and trial dates have not been set.

Mr. Saada says the events of September 11 caused the human rights movement to suffer. "Governments feel greater freedom to violate human rights in the name of state security," he said, "when in some cases "state security is not being threatened."

As an example, Mr. Saada said Egyptian police went to arrest a person for writing a bad check. When the man was not there, police took the suspect's brother into custody as a guarantee the man they wanted would surrender. Two hours later, he said, "the brother was dead as the result of torture."

The secretary-general of the Arab Organization for Human Rights, Mohammad Fayek, says the campaign to combat terrorism needs what he calls "transparency, so that it is not misused in attaining political interests."

The Egyptian parliament recently passed a law giving the government greater control over non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including human rights groups. Among other things the new law gives the government the right to decide which NGOs will be allowed to organize in Egypt and prevents them from receiving funds from foreign countries.

Opponents are expected to appeal the law to Egypt's Supreme Court.

"We live in a more dangerous world and governments need the authority to crack down on terrorists," said Mr. Fayek, but "the world will be infinitely more dangerous if governments are allowed to misuse their authority and strip innocent civilians of their human rights."

Egypt's interior ministry says legal issues are involved and, "as a matter of policy," it has no comment about allegations of human rights violations.

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