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Protesters Arrested In Egypt

According to news reports, Egyptian security forces are preventing media coverage of demonstrations in support of two judges on trial for speaking to the media about violations in the December 2005 parliamentary elections. The judges, Hesham Bastawisi and Mahmoud Mekki, are advocates of electoral and judicial reform.

One report says that in Cairo, "Hundreds of truncheon-swinging riot police, plainclothes officers, and swarms of street thugs attacked the demonstrators outside the Nasr Party headquarters downtown, pushing them inside the building or chasing them down the street."

In a written statement, the White House says the U.S. is "troubled by reports of Egyptian government repression of demonstrators protesting election fraud and calling for an independent judiciary." It says the U.S. "urge[s] the Egyptian government to permit peaceful demonstrations on behalf of reform and civil liberties."

Earlier this month, the Egyptian government extended for another two years an emergency law that has been in effect for more than twenty years. Among its provisions, the law prohibits gatherings of more than five people and limits free speech and association. The extension of the emergency law was approved by Egypt's parliament, which is controlled by the ruling National Democratic Party of President Hosni Mubarak.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the extension of the emergency law is a "disappointment":

"We understand that Egypt has certainly faced its own issues related to terrorism, but President Mubarak. . .had talked about the fact that he was going to seek a new emergency law, but one that would be targeted specifically at fighting terrorism, counterterrorism, and that would take into account respect for freedom of speech as well as human rights."

In Egypt, says Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, "There have been disappointments and setbacks." She says, the U.S. "can't judge Egypt. We can't tell Egypt what its course can be or should be. But as a friend, we want to see an Egypt that is fully developing politically." Ms. Rice says the U.S. "will continue to discuss candidly problems and progress in that reform."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.