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(New York) – As Egypt concludes its third day of voting for a new president, the intense crackdown on dissent over the last 10 months has created a repressive environment that severely undermines the fairness of the elections.

“The mass arrests of thousands of political dissidents, whether Islamist or secular, has all but shut down the political arena and stripped these elections of real meaning,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The presidential election cannot mask the ongoing brutal crackdown on peaceful opposition.”

Since the ouster of Mohamed Morsy on July 3, 2013, the military-backed government declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization without providing credible evidence of the main opposition group’s involvement in criminal offenses. It has rounded up thousands of its members and perceived sympathizers, including most of the group’s senior and mid-level leadership, as well as leading activists from secular groups such as the April 6 Movement.

Mass arrests have swept up at least 16,000 Egyptians and likely thousands more, many solely for peaceful exercise of the rights to free expression, assembly, or membership in an opposition group. In addition, Egypt is currently detaining 16 journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, making it among the five worst jailers of journalists.

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