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As Egypt cracks down, charges of wide abuse

Regular reports of torture and police abuse are fueling protests across the country.

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The regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is in the midst of one of its largest crackdowns against public dissent in a decade.

Seven journalists have been given prison sentences in recent weeks; more than a thousand activists of the Muslim Brotherhood, the country's most popular political opposition, languish in jail; and labor organizers involved in a wave of strikes at government-owned factories have been detained.

On Sunday, fighting between rival Bedouin clans in the Sinai Peninsula quickly spiraled into a riot targeting the police and President Mubarak's National Democratic Party (NDP). While local grievances sparked the fight, regular reports of widespread police brutality and torture fed anger in the Sinai, where locals called for the police chief's resignation, and are fueling public outrage around the country.

As the government cracks down hard in both the Sinai and on opposition activists, such as members of the Muslim Brotherhood, it is increasingly being charged with the use of torture on detainees. The charges are being publicized on the Internet by activists eager to bring about reform in Egypt, where the government has strong support from Washington.

"It's hard to explain why, except that torture becomes a habit," says Aida Seif al-Dawla, a psychologist who founded and runs the Nadim Center for the Psychological Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence in Cairo. "But there's no question that police abuse has gone through the roof. For the past month, we've been getting one or two cases every day. For every case that's reported to us, there's bound to be many more we never hear about."

Nasser Sedit Gadallah is just one example.

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