Amnesty International denounced what it called Egypt's "muzzled society" in a report released on Tuesday that accused the government of systematically harassing opposition politicians.
Harassment of opposition activists had increased in the run-up to legislative elections, said the report.
"The Egyptian authorities have managed to muzzle civil society by threatening with detention and imprisonment those who oppose or publicly criticize the government's policies," it said.
"Civil society institutions in Egypt, such as political parties, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), professional associations, trade unions and the news media, face ever-increasing legal restrictions and governmental control," the report added.
Human rights activists and NGO workers who reported on abuses had themselves been targeted by the government, it said, adding that women, young people and members of religious groups were also subject to trial and imprisonment by the Egyptian authorities.
"During the months leading up to the parliamentary elections scheduled for November 2000, the risk of political activists being detained has increased significantly, apparently to prevent them from standing as candidates or participating in elections," said the report.
The first of three rounds of legislative elections is due to take place in October.
"In the latest clampdown, hundreds of all alleged Muslim Brothers have been detained under broad charges, such as 'membership of an illegal organization,'" it added.
"Of the 500 or so alleged Muslim Brothers detained since May 2000, at least 150 were still in detention at the end of August," said the report.
Egypt was using anti-terrorist laws, and laws on associations and the press to limit freedom of expression and association, it continued.
The report also criticized armed Islamic groups for calling for the assassination of intellectuals whom they considered their political enemies.
President Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic Party (NDP), which has been in power since 1981, controls the vast majority of the seats in the current parliament.
The opposition, which has just 13 seats, alleged massive vote rigging in the 1995 elections, and the press has for several weeks been highly skeptical over the chances of a fair vote ahead of the coming election -- LAUSANNE, Switzerland(AFP)
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