Egyptian security forces last week seized leading members of the Kifaya movement – Enough in Arabic – during an attack on a sit-in held in support of a protest by 80 judges in the capital, Cairo.
State security thugs attempted to smash up the sit-in using clubs and knives on Monday of last week. Seven protesters were arrested and two judges who came to their aid were badly beaten.
Ibrahim Khaled, a founding member of Kifaya, said, “At 2.30am six trucks carrying about 150 persons in civilian clothes arrived. They were led by a person who seemed to be an officer. The officer gave the orders, ‘Attack. Arrest them all.’
“We linked arms and tried to protect our banners and tents.”
Two judges attempted to protect the protesters. Mahmoud Hamza, the chief justice of the north Cairo court, was one of them. The state security men grabbed him, dragged him across the street and beat him.
The judge, who is recovering from a heart operation, was hospitalised.
Kifaya, along with the Muslim Brotherhood, was supporting a protest by the judges against the prosecution of two colleagues who had exposed serious ballot rigging in last November’s general elections.
Egyptian judges, who monitor the ballot boxes, claim that many of their colleagues were intimidated after they reported widespread electoral fraud.
Two judges, who released a report detailing widespread fraud, were due to appear before a disciplinary hearing at the high court on Thursday of last week.
Hosni Mubarak has ruled Egypt under emergency law since 1981. His National Democratic Party won the recent elections.
All attempts to protest at the election fraud have been met with fierce repression.
Opposition to the regime has been increasing among many of the professional syndicates. Reformers have recently won key elections in the judges’ club, the press syndicate, and the engineers’, university professors’, doctors’ and actors’ associations.
Zakariya Abdel Aziz, the chairman of the judges’ club, complained that the judiciary had “for the past 52 years been carrying the liability of rigging elections in this country”.
Up to 7,000 of Egypt’s 9,000 judges have joined forces to campaign to end government interference in the judiciary.
This campaign has catapulted the normally conservative body into the centre of a campaign for reform. The rise of the reformists comes at a time of growing discontent against the regime’s neo-liberal policies.
The attack last Monday night failed to break the protest. Police, backed by over 800 state security thugs, returned on Wednesday night and arrested 21 members of the opposition movement, including veteran campaigner Kamal Khalil.
According to a democracy campaigner they are being held on a 15-day administrative detention for “disturbing the peace.” During the attack campaigners continued to chant “have courage judges, rid us of these tyrants”.
On Thursday over 10,000 riot police sealed off the centre of Cairo to prevent a demonstration by Kifaya and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Despite seizing over 50 protesters, the state security forces failed to dampen the protests.
On Friday of last week hundreds of demonstrators defied police with a series of protests across the city, while 200 judges gathered outside their headquarters to face down the state security police.
Fax protest letters to Counsellor Maher Abd al-Wahid, the public prosecutor, on 00 202 577 4716