May 18, 2006

Riot police close parts of Cairo to avert protests

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian riot police closed down parts of
central Cairo on Thursday as a precaution against
demonstrations in solidarity with two judges facing
disciplinary action for talking about election abuses.

Thousands of police, armed with sticks and shields, sealed
off streets around the High Court and the nearby Judges Club,
flashpoints during weeks of protests against the authorities'
attempts to punish the two judges.

In the same High Court building, the Court of Cassation
will hear on Thursday an appeal from imprisoned opposition
leader Ayman Nour, who was jailed for five years last year on
forgery charges which he and his supporters say are fabricated.

The Interior Ministry has issued warnings that police will
take a tough line against protesters on Thursday but opposition
sources said hundreds of people, many from the opposition
Muslim Brotherhood, are preparing to defy them.

About 20 Brotherhood lawmakers, wearing black sashes
inscribed "Members of parliament with the judges of Egypt,"
stood in front of the Court of Cassation.

Police arrested 50 Brotherhood members on Wednesday after
demonstrations in favor of the judges in the Nile Delta town of
Shibin el-Kom, the Interior Ministry said.

During a similar disciplinary hearing for the two judges
last Thursday, police and plainclothes security attacked
peaceful demonstrators, beating them with sticks and fists and
dragging them away in police trucks.

One of the two judges, Hesham Bastawisi, had a heart attack
on Wednesday but the hearing is expected to go ahead on
Thursday in his absence. His colleague, Mahmoud Mekky,
boycotted last week's session and is not expected to attend on