London, Feb 10 (IANS) The Egyptian military has secretly detained hundreds and possibly thousands of suspected government opponents since the anti-President Hosni Mubarak protests began, and some of these detainees have been tortured, a media report stated.
The military has claimed to be neutral, merely keeping anti-Mubarak protesters and loyalists apart. But human rights campaigners accuse the army of involvement in both disappearances and torture and abuses of Egyptians, the Guardian reported Thursday.
The paper, quoting some detainees, said such abuses have, for years, been associated with the notorious state security intelligence (SSI) but not the army.
According to the detainees, they have suffered extensive beatings and other abuses at the hands of the military in what appears to be an organised campaign of intimidation. Human rights groups have documented the use of electric shocks on some of those held by the army.
Egyptian human rights groups say, families are desperately searching for missing relatives who have disappeared in army custody. Some of the detainees have been held inside the renowned Museum of Egyptian Antiquities on the edge of Tahrir Square.
Those released have given graphic accounts of physical abuse by soldiers who accused them of acting for foreign powers, including Hamas and Israel.
Among those detained have been human rights activists, lawyers and journalists, but most have been released.
According to Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights in Cairo, hundreds and possibly thousands, of ordinary people had “disappeared” into military custody across the country. They disappeared for no more than carrying a political flyer, attending the demonstrations or even the way they look. Many were still missing.
“Their range is very wide, from people who were at the protests or detained for breaking curfew to those who talked back at an army officer or were handed over to the army for looking suspicious or for looking like foreigners even if they were not,” he said. “It’s unusual and to the best of our knowledge it’s also unprecedented for the army to be doing this.”
One of those detained by the army was a 23-year-old man who would only give his first name, Ashraf, for fear of again being arrested. He was detained last Friday on the edge of Tahrir Square carrying a box of medical supplies intended for one of the makeshift clinics treating protesters attacked by pro-Mubarak forces.
“I was on a sidestreet and a soldier stopped me and asked me where I was going. I told him and he accused me of working for foreign enemies and other soldiers rushed over and they all started hitting me with their guns,” he said.