Ex-diplomat: I was beaten by Brotherhood
CAIRO — A former Egyptian diplomat accuses the ruling Muslim Brotherhood of kidnapping and brutalizing him after last week's violence outside the presidential palace.
“They captured me, they dragged me and beat me all the way,” Yehia Negm, 42, said on Tuesday as Egyptians protested for a 19th day against President Mohamed Morsy, the Islamic-based Brotherhood and a rushed referendum on a proposed constitution.
Eight people died, and more than 700 were injured outside the palace a week ago before army troops and tanks restored order.
The Brotherhood blamed the violence on thugs paid by backers of deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak.
Negm — his face badly bruised, eyes bloodied and wrists scarred by rope burns — said Brotherhood members seized him and 50 other demonstrators outside the palace.
“They took my clothes (and) all of my belongings — my ID, my watch, my money,” he said.
The detainees were bound hand and foot, then beaten and threatened throughout the night.
“They stepped on my face and chest. They were telling us we were traitors, conspirators, infidels,” he said. “It was very shameful, very brutal.”
Negm resigned as an Egyptian diplomat in Venezuela in 2005 to protest the Mubarak regime's policies. Stripped of his passport, he remained in Venezuela until Egypt's 2011 revolution.
He said his tormentors appeared to be trained to “torture people – even the doctors were very shameful and kicked us.”
He said he saw one of his captors enter the palace. Some police took orders from Brotherhood members, he said, while a Brotherhood television crew videotaped the detainees.
Egypt has split apart since Nov. 22, when Morsy claimed near-absolute power and began pushing to enact a constitution that his opponents say would limit individual liberties and impose Islamic rule on the country.
The opposition wants the constitutional referendum on Saturday to be postponed.
In a web posting, the Brotherhood accuses demonstrators of being “paid thugs and criminals, heavily armed with guns and rifles, bladed weapons and Molotov cocktails, out to wreak havoc and paint (an) image of total lawlessness.”
Yet growing numbers of Egyptians accuse the Brotherhood and its ultra-Islamist allies of the same brutality used by the old regime.
“The Brotherhood is remaking the Mubarak regime with a (fundamentalist's) beard,” said Hani Shukrallah, managing editor of the English-language website of Al Ahram, one of the capital's leading newspapers. He said videos show “them shooting, detaining and beating people.”
“They are using the same terms for their opponents as the Mubarak regime did. … It is right out of (George Orwell's) ‘1984.' ”
Shukrallah said nearly three weeks of protests have become a battle between 2011's revolutionaries and the country's Islamists. The size and vehemence of protests around the country is “historical,” he said.
Both sides massed on Tuesday without violence. Ultra-Islamist Salafis camped outside the offices of independent media in the capital, practicing paramilitary exercises, while Brotherhood supporters sat outside the country's high court.
Negm joined anti-Morsy demonstrators outside the palace, surrounded by a protective cordon of volunteers.
“We have to seek for more liberties,” he said. “I will keep doing this till I am dead.”
Betsy Hiel is the Tribune-Review's foreign correspondent. Email her at email@example.com.