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Arrests ahead of Egypt's referendum

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Arrests ahead of Egypt's referendum

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The Egyptian government has beefed up security ahead of today’s constitutional referendum. Opposition groups have told supporters not to attend, saying it will be rigged. Activists have called for country-wide peaceful protests. The regime says the changes will protect the country against terrorism and sectarianism.

The amendments, pushed through in Parliament a week ago, allow the arrest of terror suspects without warrant and their trial by military courts. They ban political activity and parties based on religion. They allow President Mubarak to dissolve parliament unilaterally.

He could hold elections under a new voting system that could force Islamists out of Parliament. And they reduce judicial oversight of the vote.

The country’s largest opposition group, The Muslim Brotherhood, which won a fifth of seats in Parliament in 2005, believes the measures are aimed at them. They warn the country faces a dark future if the changes go ahead. A protest against the amendments was brutally broken up by police on Sunday.

Security sources said about 19 people were reportedly arrested. Witnesses said some people were beaten.