Demonstrations have broken out in Egypt over what is loosely termed the issue of the judges, an issue over which the blogger Alaa was arrested. But clearly the issue is far broader. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has a short backgrounder on what it's all about.
A disciplinary tribunal in Cairo has been hearing a case against two Egyptian judges who criticised last year's elections as fraudulent. The judges, who have been accused of damaging the reputation of the judiciary, refused to appear at the hearing because judges supporting them were not allowed in. ... Three separate groups of activists, including a few hundred from the illegal Muslim Brotherhood, were attacked and dispersed by the police. Many demonstrators have been detained. Journalists were told to move on and some cameramen were beaten and had their equipment confiscated.
Sandmonkey is liveblogging demonstrations. Presumably MB is short for "Muslim Brotherhood".
Today's demonstration has about 2000 people so far, MB mixed with Kifaya and union members, and they were demonstrating in support of the judges today.For the first 20 minutes or so, the police just let them demonstrate peacefully. And then, all of a sudden, all hell broke loose.
The Riot Police, alongside thugs and plain-clothed police officers went and attacked the demonstrations with batons on Adly street, and then started arresting them. A group of protesters got trapped in front of the engineer's syndicate on Ramsis street, and the police is beating them up, dragging them on the street and arresting them. The Police also reportedly beat up another group of protesters from the pharmacists syndicate and also attacked some US journalists who were taking pictures and broke their cameras. Another group of MB that was demonstrating at the Al Fatah mosque is currently also getting beat up and in the process of getting arrested. This is bad!
The Big Pharaoh lays out the essential foreign policy dilemma for the US. Mubarak is no democrat but fears that the Muslim Brotherhood may benefit from his downfall have propped him up -- so far.
And where does the US stand? There are speculations that the Bush administration is taking a soft approach towards the Mubarak regime after the rise of Islamists during elections held in Egypt and else where. The state department has condemned what happened today yet we still have to see if the US government will act the same way it did last year. Yet judging from the tone of what the state deprtment said today, that might not be the case.
Directly criticizing Mubarak, he said the Egyptian president had not followed through on an election campaign promise last year to take freedom of expression into consideration while addressing a real threat of terrorism. "Egypt is a good friend, Egypt is a good ally," he concluded. "We have a lot of common issues that we are working on together, certainly in fighting terrorism, certainly in trying to bring peace to the Middle East." But "that said, when there are issues that arise… we are going to speak out very plainly about them," he said. "That's what friends do."
Sandmonkey has a bunch of pictures which provide a sense of being there. One sequence shows a demonstrator being collared by the police. Someone tries to bite a cop in the hand to free his companion. But teeth are no match for the security forces and the demonstrator winds up being kicked on the ground.
The Big Pharaoh wonders what is behind the hardening in government policy towards the demonstrators.
The Egyptian regime started to become a little bit more tolerant towards protests. I don't know what is driving them crazy this time.The protests I attended were relatively large yet we were allowed to assemble and march on the streets. What changed that? Is the government so scared of the pro-reform judges? Are they behaving this way to suppress any possible large demonstration on May 25 (last year on that day president Mubarak ammended the constitution to allow for multiple candidates elections)?