Sat Nov 20, 2010
CAIRO (AFP) – Amnesty International called on Egypt on Sunday to prevent its security forces from intimidating candidates and voters in next week's parliamentary poll and criticised fresh restrictions on the opposition.
"Voters at polling stations should be protected by the Egyptian security forces, not intimidated or harassed by them as so often occurred during the last parliamentary elections in 2005," said Malcolm Smart, the London-based rights group's Middle East director.
"The Egyptian authorities must uphold the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly and ensure that peaceful protesters are not arbitrarily arrested and detained," he added in a statement.
Amnesty's warning comes amid a new crackdown on opposition activists and claims by Egyptian rights groups that the legislative election starting on November 28 is unlikely to be fair.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which runs its candidates as independents to skirt a ban on religious parties, says police have rounded up hundreds of its members in the past few weeks, including about 250 on Friday alone during clashes with security forces.
The Islamist opposition group is fielding about 135 candidates in the election, after winning a fifth of parliament's seats in the last poll in 2005. The ruling National Democratic Party is running about 800 candidates for the 508 seats.
Amnesty published a 28-page report on Friday documenting a crackdown on opposition activity in the run-up to the election, in which there will be a second round of voting on December 5.
The report listed moves by the authorities to restrict public access to information, with newspaper articles deemed politically sensitive being seized or destroyed and a dozen Egyptian satellite television channels allegedly being suspended.