Islamist thugs beat and detain dozens during protests
A disturbing picture is emerging of Islamist thugs, probably hired by the Muslim Brotherhood, detaining and beating dozens of Egyptian protestors, getting them to "confess" to being paid to cause violence in the streets.
Islamist supporters of President Mohamed Morsi captured, detained and beat dozens of his political opponents last week, holding them for hours with their hands bound on the pavement outside the presidential palace while pressuring them to confess that they had accepted money to use violence in protests against him.
"It was torment for us," said Yehia Negm, 42, a former diplomat with a badly bruised face and rope marks on his wrists. He said he was among a group of about 50, including four minors, who were held on the pavement overnight. In front of cameras, "they accused me of being a traitor, or conspiring against the country, of being paid to carry weapons and set fires," he said in an interview. "I thought I would die."
The abuses, during a night of street fighting between Islamists and their opponents, have become clear through an accumulation of video and victim testimonies that are now hurting the credibility of Mr. Morsi and his allies as they push forward to this weekend's referendum on an Islamist-backed draft constitution.
To critics of Islamists, the episode on Wednesday recalled the tactics of the ousted president, Hosni Mubarak, who often saw a conspiracy of "hidden hands" behind his domestic opposition and deployed plainclothes thugs acting outside the law to punish those who challenged him. The difference is that the current enforcers are driven by the self-righteousness of their religious ideology, rather than money.
It is impossible to know how much Mr. Morsi, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood's political arm, knew about the Islamists' vigilante justice. But human rights advocates say the detentions raised troubling questions about statements made by the president during his nationally televised address on Thursday. In it, Mr. Morsi appears to have cited confessions obtained by his Islamist supporters, the advocates said, when he promised that confessions under interrogation would show that protesters outside his palace acknowledged ties to his political opposition and had taken money to commit violence.
Of course Morsi knew. The president is still closely aligned with the Brotherhood and some observers believe he takes orders from the MB's spiritual leader Mohammed Badie.
Last week, word leaked out that the Brotherhood had paid gangs to go to the protests and single out women who were then raped for their participation. It seems pretty clear that Morsi is pulling out all the stops to get his Islamist constitution passed while intimidating the opposition into silence.