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16 Arrested at Cairo Protest

April 28, 2006|From the Associated Press

CAIRO — Riot police with truncheons Thursday chased protesters away from Egypt's high court as two pro-reform judges faced a disciplinary hearing for alleging fraud in last year's parliamentary elections.

At least 16 demonstrators were arrested and one was beaten, said the organizers, the Kifaya, or Enough, opposition group. Police declined to confirm the arrests or clashes.

The crowd, which an officer estimated at 2,000 people, chanted anti-government slogans as the judges, Hesham Bastawisi and Mahmoud Mekki, appeared at the hearing.

The two judges, who are members of the Court of Cassation, Egypt's highest appellate court, have told reporters that some of their colleagues either committed fraud or ignored it while supervising polling in staggered parliamentary elections in November and December.

The elections were marred by police blockades of polling stations in opposition strongholds, and numerous allegations of ballot stuffing.

"Our case is not important, what is important is ... the right of the Egyptian people to have an independent judiciary, democracy and free elections," Bastawisi said after the hearing, which is to reconvene May 11.

President Hosni Mubarak has denied any government role in the hearing and indicated it was an internal dispute among judges.

Human Rights Watch has called on the government to halt the proceedings.

The government "should be investigating the widespread evidence of voter intimidation, not shooting the messengers who reported the fraud," the New York-based rights group said in a statement Wednesday.

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