- 'Random' Egypt arrests after Israel embassy attack
- Libyan forces say they captured part of Sabha
- "Rage" against Wall Street power clogs sidewalks
Posted: 19 Sep 2011 07:57 PM PDT
CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian rights groups have accused Egyptian authorities of carrying out random arrests after this month's attack on the Israeli embassy in Cairo, citing it as another example of a return to the ways of ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
Security forces detained around 200 people after protesters stormed the embassy building on Sept. 9 and clashed with police. Three people died and more than 1,000 were injured.
The arrests have stoked fears of a return to police tactics used under Mubarak. Those in custody could be tried in special security courts under emergency laws still in place despite Mubarak's ouster.
Rights officials said many of those detained were bystanders or passersby.
"We are getting reports that many of those detained were not related to the attacks and just happened to be in the area," said Gamal Eid, head of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, describing the government response as "hysterical".
"Security officials during Mubarak's time simply used to detain every one who was around and now the same thing has happened in the attacks on the Israeli embassy," Eid said.
Heavy handed security policies are widely seen as one of the factors that led to the protests that forced Mubarak from office in February. A military council took control and appointed a government to steer the country towards elections.
A security source denied any random arrests, saying: "The police and military police have only arrested those who were causing destruction at the embassy." A prosecution source said investigations were ongoing and no one had been sent to court.
The ruling council has struggled to contain public anger against Israel after Egyptian soldiers were killed while Israeli soldiers chased militants who had fled across the border after they ambushed and killed eight Israelis in Eilat. A protest just days after the killing in August also turned violent.
"The security forces treatment of the embassy situation was extreme. It reminds us of the old regime's harsh techniques that were meant to sow terror in people," said Amir Salem, a rights lawyer who defended victims of torture under Mubarak.
"The detentions were done in a haphazard manner," he said.
A military source said the army had no role in the arrests. "Those detained will not be prosecuted in front of a military court and we are not involved with them," he said.
After the embassy attack, the military council reactivated emergency laws in what they said a bid to restore public order. Activists said the army was trying to revive Mubarak's tactics.
Hundreds of Egyptians marched from Tahrir Square on Monday to the cabinet headquarters to protest the move.
"Why emergency law again? Is Hosni Mubarak coming back?" they chanted. "No to emergency law. Yes to the rule of law."
"The revolution demanded freedom, but they are imposing emergency laws," said Ahmed el-Bahrawy, 20-year old student. "It is clear the regime is still in place," he added.
Most political groups disowned the violence at the embassy.
Olfat Sarhan said her brother Tawfik, a 23-year-old student, was arrested after reporting a fire in a nearby police station, although she said he was not involved in the protest.
"Some army officers told him to come and sit with them to be safe, then he was detained by police officers in civilian clothes. Now he is in Torah prison," she said, adding he was questioned by military and state security prosecutors.
Friends of another detainee, cinema student Fady El Sawi, have set up a Facebook page to campaign for his release. They say he was arrested randomly by military police in the area.
"Fady works with a news agency in a street nearby, he had nothing to do with the incident," Mus'ad Foda, head of the cinema industry professional syndicate, said in a statement.
(Additional reporting by Tamim Elyan; Editing by Andrew Hammond)
Copyright © 2011 Reuters
Posted: 19 Sep 2011 07:26 PM PDT
BANI WALID/SIRTE, Libya (Reuters) - Libya's interim government said its forces seized the airport and fort in Sabha, one of the last strongholds of forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi which also controls the main route south out of Libya.
"Our forces are there in the airport and in the castle ... Our flags are flying there," Ahmed Bani, a military spokesman for the National Transitional Council (NTC), told a news conference in Tripoli on Monday. It was not possible to get independent confirmation.
Sabha, 770 km south of Tripoli and overlooked by an old fort built by Libya's former Italian colonial rulers, controls the main trail south to neighbouring Niger, an escape route used by members of Gaddafi's entourage.
Any advance on the town would be an important boost for government forces who have struggled to contain disunity in their ranks and faced stark reversals on other parts of the battlefield.
Nearly a month after Gaddafi was driven from power, his loyalist holdouts have beaten back repeated assaults by NTC forces at Bani Walid and Sirte, Gaddafi's birthplace. NTC fighters have been sent fleeing in disarray after failing to storm Gaddafi bastions.
NTC forces with huge rocket launchers and artillery gathered outside Sirte on Monday, saying they were preparing for a fresh assault, as hundreds of families fled the town.
NTC fighter Mohamed Ahmed told Reuters the troops were advancing slowly, but holding back their heavy weaponry until civilians were clear.
Rockets fired by Gaddafi loyalists fell near NTC lines, throwing up clouds of dust.
For graphic on rebel leadership click http://link.reuters.com/quz33s
For graphics on Libya/Middle East click http://r.reuters.com/nym77r
Humanitarian groups have voiced alarm at reported conditions in Sirte.
"There's no electricity, no phone coverage. Nothing," resident Ibrahim Ramadan said, standing by a car packed with his family at a checkpoint.
Residents said homes had been destroyed and cars smashed to pieces as disorder spread through the city.
"People are fed up. There are explosions going off everywhere and you don't know where the bullets will come from next," said Abubakr, a resident making his way out of the city.
"Look at this," he said, pointing to a bullet hole in his windshield. "Bullets are coming down from above. People are just firing randomly."
MERCENARY REPORT DENIED
NTC spokesman Bani denied an assertion by Gaddafi's spokesman that Gaddafi's forces had captured 17 mercenaries, some of them British and French, in the fight for Bani Walid. "There are no British or French prisoners" in the town, Bani said.
The report by Gaddafi's spokesman Moussa Ibrahim could not be verified and no immediate proof was presented.
"A group was captured in Bani Walid consisting of 17 mercenaries. They are technical experts and they include consultative officers," Ibrahim said on Syria-based Arrai television, which has backed Gaddafi.
"Most of them are French, one of them is from an Asian country that has not been identified, two English people and one Qatari."
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said there were "no French mercenaries in Libya", while the British foreign office said it had no information about whether the report was true. Qatar's foreign ministry was not available for comment. NATO, which is staging air strikes on Gaddafi loyalist positions, says it has no troops on the ground in Libya.
Western nations have sent special forces in the past, and media have reported that private security firms have aided anti-Gaddafi forces in training, targeting and with leadership.
Bani said NTC forces on Monday arrested pro-Gaddafi mercenary leader Belqasem Al-Abaaj, who had been operating in the south of the country.
The NTC, still based in the eastern city of Benghazi, has faced questions about whether it can unify a country divided on tribal and local lines. A long-promised attempt to set up a more inclusive interim government fell apart overnight.
On Monday, NTC forces were unable to approach the northern gate of Bani Walid, 150 km southeast of Tripoli, to attack the town because of heavy gunfire from Gaddafi loyalists.
"There is a lack of organisation so far. Infantrymen are running in all directions," said Zakaria Tuham, a senior fighter with a Tripoli-based unit.
Many fighters spoke of tension between units drawn from Bani Walid itself and those from other parts of the country.
Some fighters openly disobeyed orders. In one incident, an officer from Bani Walid was heckled by troops from Tripoli after he tried to order them to stop shooting in the air.
In Benghazi, interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril failed to name a new cabinet on Sunday when his proposals did not receive full backing from all current members.
Sources familiar with the negotiations said Jibril's own role had been a sticking point. There was also disagreement about whether it was right to form a transitional government before declaring Libya "liberated", which NTC officials say can only happen when all Gaddafi loyalists are defeated.
The political infighting reveals some of the fractures in an alliance that was united in civil war by hatred of Gaddafi but remains split among pro-Western liberals, underground Islamist guerrillas and defectors from Gaddafi's government.
The NTC has its roots in Libya's east, but most of the militiamen who finally succeeded in driving Gaddafi out of Tripoli are from towns in the west.
(Additional reporting by John Irish in New York, William MacLean and Joseph Logan in Tripoli, Sherine El Madany east of Sirte, Ahmed Al-Shemi in Benghazi and Juliane von Reppert-Bismarck in Brussels; Writing by Peter Graff and Andrew Heavens)
Copyright © 2011 Reuters
Posted: 19 Sep 2011 06:56 PM PDT
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Protesters complaining about the power of the financial industry staged noisy demonstrations that slowed pedestrian traffic on Wall Street for a third day on Monday, vowing to continue "for as long as it takes" to achieve vague demands.
Up to 150 protesters near the New York Stock Exchange held up signs saying "we must end corporate tyranny and corruption" and "debt is slavery". The protesters claimed up to 350 demonstrators had come and gone throughout the morning.
Police reported eight arrests -- two for attempting to enter a Bank of America office on Saturday, when larger crowds amassed for a protest billed as a "Day of Rage," and six more on Monday. At least four on Monday were held for wearing masks, which is illegal for groups of two or more, police said.
"The elite corporate power have hijacked democracy," said Alexander Penley, an international lawyer from New York. "The economic depression we are experiencing today has something to do with how Wall Street is run."
Demonstrators have displayed other signs including "commodity inflation causes starvation" and "I can't afford a lobbyist," indicating wide-ranging frustration with what they say is the financial industry's lack of accountability for the 2008 financial crisis and persistently high unemployment.
Police maintained an intense presence in the Financial District, partitioning off areas of the sidewalk and slowing pedestrian traffic in a neighbourhood that in recent years has become more a tourist attraction than a centre of financial trades.
The demonstrators have vowed to stay for months, though it was unclear what message Wall Street employees would hear.
"The truth is I was only half paying attention to what they were saying," said Ken Polcari, managing director of ICAP Equities.
"It just seemed like it was people walking around with nasty signs up talking about the financial community, about Wall Street being the devil and all that," Polcari said.
(Reporting by Paula Rogo; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Cynthia Johnston, Martin Howell)
Copyright © 2011 Reuters
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