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Unions Cancel March After Police Beat Professionals

February 20, 1995

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Police poured into the streets Monday to block a march by doctors, lawyers, engineers and other professionals protesting government interference in union elections. Four people were beaten and one detained.

The demonstrators had planned to gather at the Doctors’ Syndicate in downtown Cairo and then march to Abdeen Palace, a presidential office. They expected 5,000 people to participate.

But police surrounded the headquarters, beating some union members and harassing others. Union leaders canceled the march to avert more violence and used loudspeakers to disperse crowds.

``It’s not our point to clash with police,″ said Anwar Shehata, treasurer of the Doctors’ Syndicate.

More than half of the professional unions are controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest fundamentalist organization. The group sees the proposed law, which would allow the government to oversee union elections, as an attempt to curb its influence.

The government has accused the brotherhood of aiding Islamic radicals fighting to install an Islamic regime, which it denies. The government warned the unions Sunday that it would not allow the march.

Police blocked entry to the building. At least four union members were beaten, including two doctors hit with rifle butts. One was briefly knocked unconscious. He was dragged from the building by police after he fell, and was detained under emergency laws allowing authorities to hold anyone suspected of action against the government.

It was the first clash between police and union members since May 1994, when police fired tear gas and used clubs to break up a march by lawyers protesting the death of a colleague in custody.

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