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Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Abused Protesters at Rally, HRW Says

Members of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood unlawfully detained and abused at least 49 anti-government protestors outside the Presidential Palace last week as security forces stood by, Human Rights Watch said.

The New York-based research and advocacy group called on Egypt’s public prosecutor to open an investigation into the incident, which it said was documented by numerous videos and eyewitness testimonies, in a report released today. It laid the blame on President Mohamed Mursi and his supporters.

“Instead of condemning illegal detentions and abuse right outside the presidential palace, President Mursi instead spoke out against the victims,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at HRW.

Clashes broke out at the palace on the night of Dec. 5 after Mursi supporters broke up a sit-in by several dozen protesters. Ten people were killed, mostly Muslim Brotherhood members, and more than 748 injured, HRW said, citing the Health Ministry. It was the most violent episode in three weeks of protests against Mursi’s Nov. 22 decree expanding his powers, and counter-rallies by the president’s supporters.

Mursi in a Dec. 6 speech referred to “confessions” of detained protestors as evidence they were “hired thugs.” Essam al-Erian, deputy secretary of the Brotherhood’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, encouraged people on television and radio to go to the palace and separate “thugs” from “revolutionaries” to reveal “the third party,” a reference to a claim often repeated by government supporters that the protesters are paid.

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