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In Egypt, diary of 'torture' captures police brutality

Hundreds of allegations have been logged into Egypt’s “torture diary,” a chronicle of claimed police brutality compiled by the Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, an independent victims advocacy group in Cairo.

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Those who do come forward tell stories that make for chilling reading. The diary paints a picture of security forces striking against ordinary citizens with impunity.

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Most entries are lists of complaints: A family in Alexandria – a father, mother and daughter – reportedly were dragged in the street to the police station on Feb. 18. The father allegedly was beaten and the daughter threatened with rape. Another entry on Feb. 21 says a 4-year-old boy reportedly was detained in the Nile Delta city of Tanta to coerce his father into giving himself up to the authorities.

“From the moment of the arrest it is a mission of breaking the victims’ dignity in front of the family members and neighbors, ending their humanity,” Adly said.

Emergency laws as election issue

As Egypt prepares for parliamentary elections this fall and presidential polls next year, political opposition groups have made the emergency laws a centerpiece of their many grievances against Mubarak’s heavy-handed rule.

In addition to the broad detention measures, the emergency decree restricts freedom of speech, prohibits demonstrations and limits gatherings to five people _ tools the regime has employed to its advantage in past elections.

Egyptians are becoming so upset with the emergency laws that even some members of Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party now speak against keeping the country under perpetual martial law.

“In my view, the emergency state shouldn’t have been extended, and shouldn’t be limited to terrorism and drug trafficking,” said Georgette Qelliny, a Mubarak-allied legislator who's also on the board of the state-run National Council for Human Rights. "What if we have a famine or a flood or any natural disaster, and martial laws are needed? How do we handle the situation then?"

Edward al Dahaby, the head of the human rights committee in parliament and a member of the National Democratic Party, the ruling bloc in parliament, declined to comment on the issue.

(Nagger is a McClatchy special correspondent.)

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