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Egypt’s riot police brutally suppress street protests

Egyptian police dealt swiftly and brutally with protesters attempting to stage a repeat of the demonstrations that a day earlier brought tens of thousands of people on to the streets calling for an end to President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule.

Nearly 1,000 people were arrested across Egypt yesterday as police mounted a co-ordinated crackdown using tear gas and beatings. The previous day up to 20,000 people joined marches across the nation that resulted in violent clashes, leaving a policeman and three protesters dead.

The authorities earlier declared a ban on any more protests in an effort to control an angry electorate emboldened by street riots that sparked a revolt earlier this month in Tunisia.

“All of Egypt must move, at one time,” a Facebook group organising the demonstrations said yesterday, calling on Egyptians to come out for a second day of national protests. By the afternoon access to Facebook along with Twitter appeared to be blocked.

The biggest demonstrations that Egypt has seen in more than three decades swept across the country on Tuesday in response to corruption, heavy-handed rule and deteriorating economic conditions. Inspired by the events in Tunisia that deposed President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali after 23 years in power, thousands defied the wrath of the authorities to march.

In the town of Suez, where three protesters were killed on Tuesday, hundreds of demonstrators descended on the morgue, demanding the release of one of the bodies for autopsy amid claims that he had been killed by live fire.

Protesters in Cairo and elsewhere defied the government ban, with roughly 3,000 gathering outside a Cairo court before they were broken up by police using riot trucks.

The emotive street scenes come as Mr Mubarak (82) heads towards new presidential elections this autumn, where he is expected to stand for a sixth consecutive term.

Many have directed their anger at Mr Mubarak who has held power in Egypt since 1981. He is understood to be in ill-health and he has groomed his son Gamal to succeed him despite reports that such an appointment would sit badly with the military establishment.

Some reports suggested that Gamal Mubarak had fled Egypt along with other prominent political figures.

Meanwhile, the US and the European Union reminded Egypt in the wake of the protests to allow freedom of expression, and urged the government to listen to its people's needs.

Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif responded that the government respected freedom of expression through legitimate means, adding that police exercised restraint in Tuesday's protests.

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