Sunday, March 30, 2008

Egypt arrests a bid to fix elections - rights group

"CAIRO, March 30 (Reuters) - Egypt's arrests of hundreds of opposition Islamists, including would-be candidates in local council elections due on April 8, amount to a "shameless bid" to fix the vote, Human Rights Watch said on Sunday.

The U.S.-based rights group complained that Egypt had detained more than 800 members of the Muslim Brotherhood in recent weeks, including at least 148 would-be candidates in the council vote.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which holds a fifth of the seats in the lower house of parliament through members elected as independents, says it seeks an Islamic state through non-violent democratic means. It operates openly despite a decades-old ban.

Some 40 Brotherhood members are currently on trial in a military court over charges of belonging to a banned group and possessing anti-government literature. Local and international rights groups have criticised the trial as unfair.

"These ongoing mass arrests of opposition activists, on top of the military trial, are a shameless bid to fix the upcoming elections," Joe Stork, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

"President (Hosni) Mubarak apparently believes that the outcome of the elections cannot be left up to voters," he said......."

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