CAIRO — Even as Egypt came under withering new criticism from international and domestic human rights groups, interim President
In a backhanded acknowledgment of previous police abuse, Mansour declared that in the wake of Islamist President
That assertion came the same day that London-based
Mansour's remarks came in a speech marking a holiday this weekend honoring the police, who will be on high alert for unrest: This weekend is also the anniversary of the 2011 Tahrir Square
The president said a subsequent uprising — mass protests early last summer that spurred the army to remove Morsi from office — "turned a new page in the relationship between the people and the police … putting an end to the police state and protecting the dignity of the citizen."
At the same time, Mansour described police as heroes in the struggle against terrorism, citing attacks such as one earlier Thursday in which five officers were killed in a shooting at a checkpoint south of Cairo. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the government generally blames Islamic militants for strikes against security forces.
Activists have said officials use such attacks as a pretext for moving against anyone expressing opposition to the government, whether they are supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood or avowed secularists. Amnesty International, in its report, argued that the security forces, the courts and other elements of the state apparatus had been systematically used by the interim government as tools of repression.
"Egypt has witnessed a series of damaging blows to human rights and state violence on an unprecedented scale over the last seven months," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, the group's Middle East and North Africa deputy director.
Deputy Foreign Minister Hisham Badr sharply disputed the report's conclusions and urged Egyptians to disregard "attempts to distort the facts."
The government was also singled out for criticism on Thursday by Freedom House, a U.S.-based pro-democracy watchdog group. In its annual report on the state of freedom worldwide, the organization cited the coup against Morsi as having led to "across-the-board reversals in [Egypt's] democratic institutions."
The Egyptian academic accused of espionage is Emad Shahin, a scholar of political Islam. In an open letter to friends and colleagues, he said the charges were "far-fetched" and politically motivated.
"Though I have always been a fervent critic of authoritarian rule in Egypt, I have always expressed strong support for peaceful protests to restore democracy and express popular opposition against government repression," Shahin, who was traveling in the United States, wrote in his open letter.
Shahin is named as a codefendant in a case against Morsi and more than 30 other defendants who are accused of colluding with foreign militant groups such as
The blogger sentenced to prison, Ahmed Anwar, had been arrested after posting a satirical video on YouTube. The verdict drew criticism from two Egyptian rights groups, which said the case showed the government refused to tolerate criticism of any kind.