Activists protest assault on female reporter

CAIRO (AP) — Dressed mostly in black, about 500 Egyptian journalists, human rights activists, celebrities, novelists, and pro-democracy supporters responded to a call Wednesday to protest the alleged harassment of women journalists and protesters during last week’s referendum vote.
The women were reportedly beaten and groped while protesting or covering the referendum vote last Wednesday.

Some said they later filed complaints with Egypt’s interior minister and Cairo’s police chief.

The information ministry said it lamented two incidents in which reporters were hurt when they were caught between groups of fighting protesters and accused the protesters of trying to mar the balloting despite a ban on demonstrations. Protesters flocked to the press syndicate building in downtown Cairo wearing black or carrying black signs.

“We will not stop until we get an official apology from the minister of the interior,” said schoolteacher and activist Ghada Al Shahbandar. “We need him to confess to the brutal assaults that took place.” Shahbandar said Wednesday’ was a “day of national mourning” and distributed white ribbons in an act she said was meant to symbolise an apology to all women who were assaulted that day.

The protesters carried black banners reading “Fire the minister of interior,” “Put these criminals on trial and punish them.” They carried posters of Interior Minister Habib Al Adly, with an X crossing out his face and a statement saying “Make him resign.” The interior ministry would not comment on the protest when contacted by The Associated Press Wednesday.

In an official statement addressed to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, 22 Arab and Egyptian human rights organisations asked the president to investigate the alleged sexual assaults during on referendum day and punish the security bodies and the police forces “who directed this battlefield of shame.” Egyptians voted in a referendum last week that would approve a constitutional amendment allowing for multicandidate presidential elections. The government has declared the referendum, which passed easily, a success.

But ahead of the vote opposition groups called for a boycott and organised anti-Mubarak demonstrations.

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