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Unions Cancel March After Police Beat Professionals, Arrest One

February 20, 1995

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Egyptian professionals called off a march today to protest a proposed law letting the government oversee union elections after police beat at least four union members and arrested another.

The doctors, engineers, lawyers and others planned to march through downtown Cairo to Abdeen Palace, a presidential office. They said they expected 5,000 to participate.

Thirteen of the 22 independent unions are controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest Islamic fundamentalist organization. The group sees the law as an attempt to diminish its influence and denies government allegations that it has ties to Islamic radicals fighting to oust the secular government and install strict Islamic rule.

Police had warned on Sunday that the march would not be permitted, and today blocked the protesters from entering a building where they had planned to gather.

At least four union members were beaten, two or more of them with rifle butts, and one was knocked unconscious. One person was arrested, said Anwar Shehata, treasurer of the Doctors’ Syndicate.

Union members called off the march and sent three people to negotiate with the police to prevent more violence, said Ahmed Omar, a member of the syndicate’s leadership.

It was the first clash between police and union members since May, when police fired tear gas and used clubs to break up a protest by lawyers protesting the death of a colleague in custody.

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