The Egyptian authorities are hindering opposition activists and clamping down on the media ahead of parliamentary elections next week in the Arab world’s most populous country, Amnesty International said.
Government critics have faced harassment and arrest without charge or trial under an emergency law in place since 1981, and authorities have restricted public access to information in the run-up to the vote, the human rights group said in a statement.
It pointed to seizures of newspapers carrying reports seen as politically sensitive and the closure of some TV channels.
The vote is seen as a test of Egypt’s tolerance of dissident voices and opposition campaigning ahead of a presidential vote in 2011. President Hosni Mubarak, in power since 1981, has not said if he will run for a sixth term in office, Reuters reports.
“The eyes of the world will be on the conduct of the Egyptian authorities during this election,” said Amnesty’s regional director Malcolm Smart. “It’s an opportunity for them to show that Egypt can be a place where human rights are respected.”
The amnesty statement follows a call from the United States for Egypt to allow peaceful gatherings, open media coverage and international observers before and during the November 28 vote.
Egypt, which receives large amounts of U.S. aid and is a key ally in Washington’s efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians, regularly dismisses such calls as meddling in its internal affairs.
It insists the elections will be free and fair and says local monitors can handle their task without any need for international intervention.
“Our rejection of international monitoring does not mean we intend to falsify the elections,” Minister of Legal and Assembly Affairs Moufid Shehab was quoted as saying by state news agency MENA. “Every state has the right to organise elections in accordance with its perspective, rules, and legislation.”
Security forces detained over 100 supporters of Egypt’s main opposition Muslim Brotherhood in different cities on Friday. Police sources and MENA said they were held for holding unauthorised public gatherings or hanging election posters.