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Rights group accuses Egyptians of abuses

CAIRO -- An international rights group yesterday accused the Egyptian armed forces of beating and torturing protesters arrested during antimilitary demonstrations early this month, and said that by permitting such actions the military "enables further abuse."

The three days of street clashes in Cairo that began May 2 and left nine civilians dead were the latest in a string of deadly confrontations between the military and protesters in Egypt since a council of ruling generals took power 15 months ago. In its violent crackdown on the demonstrations outside the Defense Ministry, the military arrested more than 300 people and referred them to military tribunals.

Human Rights Watch condemned the military's response to the protests, and said in a statement that people caught in the roundup and since released have given "consistent accounts of torture and abuse during arrest and in detention."

"The brutal beating of both men and women protesters shows that military officers have no sense of limits on what they can do," said Joe Stork, a deputy director for the New York-based group.

Human Rights Watch also criticized soldiers who did nothing as apparent supporters of Egypt's military rulers opened fire May 2 on demonstrators holding a sit-in outside the ministry, killing nine.

Days later, the military detained some 350 protesters as part of its crackdown on the protests and put them on trial before military tribunals. At least 256 of those arrested remain in detention, the group said.

The protests rattled Egypt just weeks ahead of landmark presidential elections, the first since longtime authoritarian ruler Hosni Mubarak's ouster last year. The vote marks the first time Egyptians will choose their leader in a race overseen by international monitors.

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