Egypt’s President: Police State Has Ended

CAIRO (AP) -

Egypt’s military-backed interim president said Thursday that the country’s uprisings have put an end to the police state, even as the government came under new criticism over abuses by security forces amid a heavy-handed crackdown on Islamists and other dissenters.

Adly Mansour’s comments were part of a campaign to rehabilitate the image of the security agencies whose abuses and grip on political life were a major factor fueling the 2011 uprising that ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak, which marks its third anniversary Saturday. Though there has been little reform of the agencies since, the police have surged back into prominence, touted by authorities as heroes, after the military’s ouster of Mubarak’s elected successor, Islamist Mohammed Morsi.

Since Morsi’s ouster on July 3, security forces have jailed thousands of members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has also been declared a terrorist organization. Hundreds of Morsi supporters were killed in police crackdowns on their protests. Amid a wave of nationalist sentiment, the crackdown has extended to other critics: A number of journalists and many of the top secular activists who led the anti-Mubarak uprising and oppose the military’s dominance now have been detained.

The deputy Mideast-North Africa director of Amnesty International Thursday called on Egyptian authorities to “change course and take concrete steps to show they respect human rights and rule of law,” including releasing “prisoners of conscience.”

Otherwise, “Egypt is likely to find its jails packed with unlawfully detained prisoners and its morgues and hospitals with yet more victims of arbitrary and abusive force by its police,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry described the report as “tarnishing the facts” and said the government respects human rights while it is engaged in “combating terrorism.”

Authorities have justified many police actions as part of a fight against terrorism, amid a wave of Islamic terrorist attacks since Morsi’s ouster. That message has met strong sympathy among much of the public, where there is considerable support for the military and resentment of the Islamists.