April 6, 2010 / 3:14 PM / in 9 years

UPDATE 1-Protesters seek change in Egypt, scuffle with police

* Protesters chant “Down, down, Hosni Mubarak”

* Demonstrators scuffle with security forces, up to 90 held

(Adds Amnesty International statement, updates detentions)

By Yasmine Saleh and Mohamed Abdellah

CAIRO, April 6 (Reuters) - Egyptian protesters demanding an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule scuffled with security forces on Tuesday and scores were detained, witnesses and security sources said.

“Down, down, Hosni Mubarak,” a group of more than 200 chanted as they tried to gather in central Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Police hauled away a group of about a dozen protesters, shouting “freedom, freedom” near parliament.

The pro-reform group behind the protest, the Sixth of April Youth, is seeking constitutional amendments and an end to an emergency law that sanctions indefinite detentions. Egypt holds a parliament election this year and a presidential vote in 2011.

Hundreds of riot police were stationed across the capital, encircling small groups of protesters.

Police beat some people with sticks and dragged dozens away, witnesses said. They also chased off reporters and seized cameras being used by media.

Such demonstrations are rare in Egypt, an important U.S. ally in the region, and are usually swiftly quashed by security forces.

“We are seeking to do away with injustice and other bad things,” screamed Meena Samir, a student at Cairo University.

The Sixth of April group was formed after April 2008 clashes in the Nile Delta between police and workers demanding more pay. Three people were killed.

Rights group Amnesty International condemned what it called the state’s violent response to Tuesday’s protests.

“The Egyptian authorities should demonstrate their commitment to human rights by allowing and protecting peaceful protests,” Amnesty’s regional head Malcolm Smart said.

A security source said about 60 people had been detained in central Cairo for demonstrating without a permit, while Amnesty and April 6 said more than 90 were held.

Men in plain clothes with holstered guns hauled some demonstrators away.

ELECTIONS

Mubarak’s National Democratic Party is expected to win an overwhelming majority in parliament. But human rights groups, which have long complained of manipulation of Egyptian voting, are calling for international oversight of the elections.

Mubarak, 81, has not said whether he will run for a sixth presidential term but, if he does not, many Egyptians believe he will try to hand power to his politican son, Gamal, 46.

Rules outlined in the constitution make it almost impossible for any candidate to mount a realistic challenge for the presidency without the backing of Mubarak’s ruling party.

“What we are calling for is political freedom for Egyptians through peaceful means. Our aim is to instigate political movement among the people to demand their rights,” Omar Ali, a April 6 movement organiser, told Reuters before the protest.

One group of more than 20 protesters that included opposition politician Ayman Nour, who came a distant second in the 2005 presidential race, was blocked by security from reaching the square, witnesses said.

After the protest, April 6 leader Ahmed Maher said the group would file a lawsuit against the Interior Ministry. “This shows the fear of the ruling (party) of any opposition — despite its claims that it allows democracy,” he said.

The Arabic satellite channel Al-Jazeera reported that Egyptian police confiscated tapes from one of its TV crew covering the demonstrations in Cairo.

The April 6 group and another group called Kefaya (Enough) are Egypt’s two active anti-government movements. The main political opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, has a minority in parliament but has tended to avoid street protests.

Tuesday’s march was supported by Nour’s liberal Ghad (Tomorrow) opposition party. (Additional reporting by Marwa Awad and Alastair Sharp; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Matthew Jones)

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