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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Prominent Egyptian Activists Detained for Protesting Under New Law

Video of Egyptian police dispersing a protest in Cairo on Tuesday recorded by Mosireen, a collective of activist filmmakers.

Using new powers to stifle dissent granted this week by Egypt’s military-backed government, riot police officers dispersed a peaceful protest outside the Parliament in Cairo on Tuesday and detained several prominent activists.

Video posted online by Mosireen, a collective of activist filmmakers, showed police officers aiming a water cannon directly at protesters chanting against military rule outside the upper house of Parliament, known as the Shura Council. According to video journalists from the independent Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm, the police quickly escalated from spraying water to firing tear gas and roughly detaining protesters, even though the demonstration was almost immediately dispersed.

A video report from Al-Masry Al-Youm, an independent Egyptian news site, showing protesters being detained in Cairo on Tuesday.

Video of protesters being detained by the police in Cairo on Tuesday, from Al-Masry Al-Youm.

More video of the dispersal, from the news site El Badil, showed that several of the protesters knelt down in front of the officers just before the water canon was fired at them.

The Egyptian journalist Sharif Kouddous reported that the police attacked protesters as they fled, just one of the ways they apparently exceeded their authority under the new law.

The rights activist and lawyer Ragia Omran reported that dozens of protesters were arrested, including the leaders of the No Military Trials for Civilians movement, which organized the demonstration against a provision of the new constitution that would permit the practice.

Mona Seif, a founder of the group, was among those arrested. Before her phone battery lost power, Ms. Seif managed to transmit a list of those detained to her @Monasosh Twitter feed from custody.

Activists reported that the detainees were beaten and sexually harassed in custody.

Photographs and video posted online by activists later showed that protesters regrouped later in nearby parts of the city, including Talaat Harb, near Tahrir Square, until they were again dispersed by the police.

Ustream video of protesters chanting against military rule in Cairo’s Talaat Harb Square on Tuesday night before the police arrived.

The activist blogger Tarek Shalby, who took part in the Tahrir Square sit-in that drove President Hosni Mubarak from power in 2011, streamed live video from his phone of Talaat Harb filled with tear gas after it was cleared by the police.

As my colleague Kareem Fahim reports, late Tuesday a small number of protesters also gathered again outside the Shura Council.

After the crackdown on Tuesday, Egyptian bloggers who have charted the struggle against authoritarianism since 2011 wondered just how far the clock had been set back by the implementation of the new anti-protest law.