CAIRO, Egypt -- Human Rights Watch (HRW) today accused Egypt's military leadership of torturing protesters arrested at a large protest earlier this month, citing witness testimony from over a dozen victims of abuse.
The anti-military protests in Cairo's Abbasiyya area began on April 27 but did not turn violent until May 2, when they lead to attacks on demonstrators by unknown assailants -- violence HRW says military forces did little to stop.
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The report details widespread beating and the use of torture on those arrested at another protest close to the Defense Ministry, where clashes broke out.
The May 4 clashes resulted in the arrest of some 350 demonstrators, including 10 children and 16 women. Over 250 of them remain behind bars. HRW conducted extensive interviews with many of those released, collecting testimony from over a dozen who said they were tortured and beaten while in prison.
Female detainee Hagar Abu Khazeem told reporters at a lawyers' syndicate in Cairo on May 12 that she fled to a nearby mosque for protection. "But military police came into the mosque and started yelling at us," she said, according to Reuters. "One soldier pointed a gun at me and next thing I knew he shot at me and the bullet went through my arm. The soldiers came up to where I was with four other women and around 20 or 30 of them attacked us as if they hated us."
Rights groups have accused Egypt's transitional military leadership of launching a covert crackdown on dissent since taking power following the ousting of former President Hosni Mubarak last year.
The country is due to hold historic presidential elections next week in a move toward a full transition to civilian leadership.