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Old 11-26-2005, 02:55 PM   #1
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Egyptian Police Bar Islamists From Voting, Arrest 800+

Police restrict access in Egypt elections
Saturday, 26 November, 2005

ALEXANDRIA/TANTA, Egypt (Reuters) - Egyptian police restricted voting in areas contested by the opposition Muslim Brotherhood on Saturday and detained more than 800 Islamists trying to build on early success in parliamentary elections. Thousands of riot police deployed in constituencies where the Muslim Brotherhood has a candidate, in many cases sealing off polling stations or severely limiting the number of people who could go in and vote, witnesses said.

The Muslim Brotherhood said police had detained 860 Muslim Brotherhood supporters since the early hours, starting with dawn raids on their homes and continuing with arrests outside polling stations. Monitors confirmed arrests outside the stations.

Young Islamists clashed with riot police in an Alexandria slum in the early evening, after waiting in vain to vote. In other places, thugs attacked Brotherhood activists.

A leading judge told Reuters that some judges packed up early in protest and took the ballot boxes away with them. "Security forces surrounded some of the polling stations, blocking some voters from entering," said judge Ahmed Mekki, who is in charge of an election monitoring effort by the judiciary. Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Abdel Muezz Mohamed said 56 judges had refused to take part in the count because of flagrant violations during the day's voting. "When some of the judges protested and demanded that the centers be open to the voters, they were insulted and humiliated by the police," judicial offical Hesham el-Bastawy told Al-Jazeera TV.

The elections on Saturday were especially heated after the Brotherhood, which fields candidates as independents because the government refuses to recognize the group, won more seats than President Hosni Mubarak's NDP in voting last Sunday. Although the Brotherhood does not have enough candidates to break the NDP's overall control over parliament, its electoral success has shaken the government and ruling party.

The Brotherhood's platform is based on a vague call for the implementation of Islamic law in the Arab world's largest nation. It advocates the veil for women and campaigns against perceived immorality in the media, but the group insists it represents a more moderate face of Islam than that followed in deeply conservative Saudi Arabia.

In another Alexandria district, Taher Abdel Fattah said he had gone to cast his vote but could not do so because of the police cordon around the polling station. "Tomorrow they will say the election was fair and everyone is happy. It will all be lies. We are ruled by liars and thugs," said Mohamed Ibrahim, 31, who was also trying to vote.

In the Nile Delta city of Tanta, a line of riot police three men deep prevented people from voting. After polling stations closed, police ejected Brotherhood representative Mohamed Ibrahim from the place where the votes will be counted, Ibrahim said. "The only people inside now are NDP," he added. When a Reuters correspondent tried to take a photograph, police manhandled him, briefly detained him and took away the memory card of his camera.

Security forces also confiscated the identity papers of an Associated Press reporter covering the polls in the Nile Delta, north of Cairo.

In Hayatim, men with machetes and clubs attacked Brotherhood organizers outside stations as soon as they opened in the morning, frightening voters away, witnesses and monitors said.
"I raised a chair to defend myself but I was hit on the head and shoulder," Brotherhood campaign worker Mahmoud Mohamed told Reuters. His head was bandaged.

In Bolqina, voters claimed NDP-allied thugs attacked them. Brotherhood supporter Mokhtar Mohammed said men fired guns into the air and beat voters, including veiled women, with sticks before smashing several computers at a polling station. "The security forces were looking on as we were being attacked,'' claimed Mawaheb Mongged, a veil-wearing Brotherhood supporter, who said men beat her on her back with wooden sticks.

The village's government-appointed mayor blamed the Brotherhood. "They are thugs and fanatics. We are trying as much as we can to have a clean process that goes smoothly,'' said Essam Amin el-Sebaie outside the polling station.

In Alexandria, Mahrous Tantawi, an unemployed man, said the NDP paid him 20 Egyptian pounds to vote for its candidate. "I got the money last night and now I'm here so they can take me to the polling station to vote," he told Reuters.
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