Da The Daily Star del 21/11/2005
Originale su http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=10&categ_id=2&a...

Violence plagues Egypt's second round of polling

Over 450 brotherhood supporters arrested

Egypt's police arrested over 450 Muslim Brotherhood supporters while thugs shot dead one man in nationwide riots that marred the second round of parliamentary vote. Scores of voters and campaign workers were also reported injured in clashes between Brotherhood supporters and police across the nine provinces where 1,706 candidates were battling in 72 constituencies over 144 seats.

The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) and police said the dead man, caught up in clashes in Alexandria, was a driver for an independent candidate and identified him as Mohammad Khalil Ibrahim.

Another group monitoring elections, the Independent Committee on Election Monitoring, reported a taxi driver in Alexandria also was killed when thugs destroyed six cars outside a polling station, but police had not confirmed that death.

Earlier, the Brotherhood spokesman in Alexandria, Ali Abdel-Fattah, said men had opened fire on the group's backers in a downtown polling station, killing one man and wounding several other people. But that reported death was never confirmed.

Leading Brotherhood member Issam al-Arian said the authorities had fallen back on their old ways.

"This indicates the lack of any intention by the government or the regime to meet the promises it made to make real political or constitutional changes," he told Reuters.

But Ibrahim Hammad, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, accused the Brotherhood of using thugs to intimidate voters and attack other candidates' supporters.

Observers and opposition parties said the violence stemmed from a willingness on the part of the NDP to prevent the Brotherhood from making further political gains.

Brotherhood candidates doubled their strength in Parliament in the first stage of the elections, winning 21 percent of the 164 seats contested. The NDP won 68 percent of the seats.

With the second phase including many of their traditional strongholds, the Brotherhood may be on course for 100 MPs in the 454-seat People's Assembly.

"This phase will be more tense than the first round. The government will try to interfere with the polling process in a bid to prevent the surge of the Muslim Brotherhood," prominent judge Yehya al-Rifai told AFP.

The Brotherhood said at least said at least 467 Islamist supporters were rounded up over the weekend in areas taking part in the second phase of the polls.

"We insist on continuing the polling and these arrests are evidence of the ruling party's interference in the elections," Aryan told AFP.

Violence was limited in the first stage but spread on Sunday. Gangs, primarily made up of NDP supporters, controlled access to polling stations and threatened voters, the Independent Committee on Election Monitoring said.

In Damanhour, the Nile delta town 140 kilometers north of Cairo, riots broke out outside 10 different polling stations, a police official said. Knives and steel chains were used by Brotherhood supporters, the official said.

Sameh Bakr, a Brotherhood campaign worker, said police sealed off a number of polling stations, firing tear gas, Molotov bottles and bullets to keep voters away.

The EOHR said three men stabbed and critically wounded one campaign worker for a Brotherhood candidate inside a polling station near Damanhour.

In the Suez Canal city of Ismailiyya, witnesses said a Brotherhood candidate's brother was shot and wounded by the cousin of the NDP candidate at one polling station.

Other witnesses said they saw intelligence officers kicking and beating a veiled woman, identified as Iman al-Sayyed Abdel-Aziz, after she protested to not being allowed to vote.

In a report, the EOHR described "an ascending violence and thuggery by the supporters of the NDP candidates against the supporters and representatives of contesting opposition and Brotherhood candidates." Voters were being intimidated in both Alexandria and Ismailiyya, both strongholds of the Brotherhood, the group said.

It said one of its monitors was kidnapped in Port Saeed, another in Suez Canal city, and said candidates' representatives were being denied access to polling stations.

Monitoring group Sawasya said in Alexandria gangs, under police supervision, had used sticks, knives and police dogs to "terrorize" voters and supporters of Brotherhood candidate Tawakkol Massoud.

Voting on Sunday takes place in the Nile Delta and the cities of Port Said, Ismailiyya, Suez, Alexandria, Qena and the oasis province of Fayyoum southwest of Cairo.

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