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Mubarak regime, shaken by terrorism, lashes out at opponents at home

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  • Dan Powers
    http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/world/20060430-1355-egypt-onedge.html Mubarak regime, shaken by terrorism, lashes out at opponents at home By Nadia Abou
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 30, 2006
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      Mubarak regime, shaken by terrorism, lashes out at opponents at home

      By Nadia Abou El-Magd


      1:55 p.m. April 30, 2006

      CAIRO, Egypt - The Egyptian government - shaken again by terrorist bombs -
      appears to be lashing out in all directions to prevent chaos from growing
      out of anger over the economy, its treatment of opponents, and broken
      promises of political reform.

      On Sunday, President Hosni Mubarak, as expected, got parliament's approval
      to renew the emergency law he imposed when he took power in 1981 from the
      assassinated Anwar Sadat. authorities broad powers of arrest and detention
      that the government says are needed to combat terrorism. Human rights groups
      have said it is widely abused.

      For example, the government has conducted a rash of arrests since March,
      jailing about 90 members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, the
      fundamentalist Islamic organization that poses the greatest challenge to
      Mubarak's continued rule.

      "The government has no intention of launching real political reforms. It
      aims to tighten its grip," deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammad
      Habib said.

      At least 35 arrests were made in recent days, mainly of Brotherhood members
      who were hanging posters against renewal of the emergency law.

      Last week, about 50 people were arrested, journalists included, at a
      demonstration in support of judges who are apparently being punished for
      criticizing Mubarak's handling of last year's parliamentary elections in
      which at least 14 people were killed.

      The regime fielded thousands of security agents to crush the pro-judge
      demonstration in Cairo, more than it did at the scene of the triple bombing
      in Dahab last week, where at least 21 people were killed.

      Judges Mahmoud Mekki and Hesham el-Bastawisy, both members of the Court of
      Cassation - the country's highest appellate court - said disciplinary
      proceedings against them were ordered because of their loud protests against
      what they saw as a deeply flawed and dishonest election.

      The judges also accused some pro-government judges of allowing or
      participating in vote-rigging.

      The government never investigated the violence surrounding the vote, nor
      were those responsible for the killings arrested or charged.

      Most of the 14 victims were supporters of the Brotherhood who died as
      security officials violently blocked polling places in a bid to keep the
      organization's candidates from making even greater inroads in parliament.

      Some insiders are making comparisons to the final days of Sadat's rule, now
      known as "black September" because the former president had swept 1,500
      opposition figures into custody.

      Negad el-Borai, director of the Group for Democratic Development, said he
      was reminded of that time.

      As in 1981, he told The Associated Press, the Mubarak regime "has made
      enemies of all other political forces, judges, journalists, professional
      organizations, NGOs, small businessmen, the army of unemployed. Muslims and
      Christians are unhappy, nobody is happy in Egypt these days."

      El-Borai's organization was one of six nongovernment groups that has been
      vilified by pro-government newspapers for having taken U.S. aid.

      "We are waiting for a big surprise," Suleiman Gouda wrote in the independent
      daily Al-Masry Al-Youm. "You feel that Egypt is pregnant with something,
      it's up to you to imagine the looks of the baby that will be born after 25
      years (of Mubarak's rule)."

      Mubarak - under domestic and international pressure, especially from
      Washington - surprised the country in February 2005 by saying he would allow
      the first multi-candidate presidential elections in Egypt, a top U.S. ally.

      The election was held in September and Mubarak outdistanced nine

      Ayman Nour, who finished a distant second, has subsequently been sentenced
      to five years in prison on forgery charges that he says were trumped up to
      eliminate him from politics.

      In February, Mubarak postponed elections for local councils for two years,
      apparently to block another strong showing by the Brotherhood. The roundup
      of Brotherhood members began shortly afterward.

      Mubarak walks a tightrope, trying to balance the interests of the United
      States, which has given Egypt $2 billion each year since Sadat made peace
      with Israel in 1979, against a growing anger with Washington among his
      fellow Arab leaders.

      Of late, on virtually every issue of importance to the United States - with
      the one exception of Israel - Mubarak has taken positions that have riled
      the Americans.

      The Bush administration showed its frustration by putting off negotiations
      on a free-trade agreement and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's most
      recent visit was deeply marred by public disagreement with her Egyptian

      Mubarak, who will turn 78 on Thursday, was re-elected in September for six
      more years, issuing promises to reform the economy and politics. Many
      complain the vows were not serious.

      In an interview with Al-Arabiya TV on April 8, Mubarak said "he is very
      comfortable" with how things are going.

      "I feel people understand that we are working on constant reforms, and there
      is ongoing political movement, so of course I'm very comforted," said the
      Egyptian leader, a Soviet-trained fighter pilot.

      But in a sign of the regime's concern over what its own people know about
      events in their country, the government arrested Al-Jazeera television's
      Cairo bureau chief Hussein Abdel-Ghani in Dahab where he was reporting on
      last week's attacks. He was held for 29 hours, accused of false reporting
      and released on bail.

      The Mubarak government is at pains to blame the attacks on local extremists
      in an attempt to deflect concerns about al-Qaeda, which could damage the
      vital tourist industry.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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