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A harrowing day shows the resilience and tactics of Egypt's security state

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Ann Hermes / The Christian Science Monitor

(Read caption) The clash between pro/anti Mubarak supporters in Tehrir Square on Feb. 02 was the first time Egyptian protesters saw the use of gangs of hired thugs against them. Humanitarian workers held and abused without cause tell their story of how these thugs and the police are treating them, and pro-democracy protestors.

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As Said Haddadi made his way toward a meeting at the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, there were hints of a paranoid and xenophobic turn of mood on the streets of Cairo.

The car the Amnesty International researcher was traveling in was stopped twice by armed men dressed in street clothes who claimed they were military. As he neared his destination, Mr. Haddadi saw a mob of men with clubs beating and dragging a man toward a military police checkpoint. The baltagea, or pro-regime thugs, were shouting that the man was a spy from the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.

The Amnesty International researcher and a group of colleagues changed their route to the law center, a leading Egyptian human rights group, to avoid trouble. They were seeking information on the treatment of Egypt pro-democracy protesters at Tahrir Square. But the mob caught up with them. Instead of gathering information on the human rights situation, they soon found themselves trapped in a chaotic, Kafkaesque day-and-a-half ordeal that illustrates the tactics being used by the regime of Hosni Mubarak and his new Vice President Omar Suleiman to control information and stifle dissent, despite their promises of reform.

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