EGYPT: Some ruling party members of parliament call for harsher tactics against protestors
As Egyptian activists have grown more brazen in recent weeks, three members of the nation's parliament have criticized the Interior Ministry for not harshly cracking down on demonstrators calling for widespread political reforms.
"Shoot them [activists] and use bullets against those outlaws. We are 80 million Egyptians, and we don't care if we lose a bunch of contraveners like them," said Nashaat Kassas, a lawmaker. His comments, aimed at Interior Minister Habib Adli, came after opposition protests on April 6 and April 13.
"If it was my decision, I'd have questioned the minister [Adli] about his leniency towards those demonstrators," said Kassas, a member of the ruling National Democratic Party.
Nearly 90 marchers were arrested and beaten by state security officers during an April 6 protest led by the April 6 Youth movement and other groups to force an end to Egypt's emergency laws and push for changes to the constitution. A week later, another confrontation broke out in downtown Cairo, but police appeared more restrained, arresting only one activist.
"The Ministry of Interior should deal more firmly with those outlaws. They should be met with a hand of steel," said NDP member of parliament Ahmed Abu Aqrab. Another member of parliament, Ragab Hemeida, who doesn’t belong to the NDP, agreed with Kassas and Abu Aqrab that activists should be stopped with force.
Despite the parliament members' dissatisfaction with the security forces, the violence and detentions that marred the protests were widely condemned by local and international human rights organizations, including the New York-based Human Rights Watch.
"Using aggression to halt our peaceful and legitimate demonstrations will not stop us. Actually we've been gaining more and more supporters since the April 6 protest," Ahmed Maher, leader of April 6 Youth movement, told The Times.
The protests coincided with calls for democratic reform that have spread since Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the United Nation's nuclear watchdog agency, returned to Egypt in February and formed the National Front for Change . ElBaradei is seeking constitutional amendments that would make it easier for opposition candidates to run for president in 2011. Without such amendments, ElBaradei and other potential candidates would be ineligible.
"We were waiting for someone like ElBaradei, who has the necessary character and experience to force positive changes in order to focus and build our efforts around his progress," Maher said.
It's not clear whether President Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power since 1981, will seek reelection. Many believe that the 81-year-old is likely to back the candidacy to his younger son and party member, Gamal Mubarak.
-- Amro Hassan in Cairo
Photo: Egyptian activists face police forces on Apri 13. Credit: Associated Press