CAIRO — Egypt’s military-backed interim president said Thursday that the country’s uprisings have put an end to the police state, even as the government came under new criticism over abuses by security forces amid a heavy-handed crackdown on Islamists and other dissenters.
Adly Mansour’s comments were part of a campaign to rehabilitate the image of the security agencies, whose abuses and grip on political life were a major factor fueling the 2011 uprising that ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak, which marks its third anniversary Saturday. Though there has been little reform, the police have surged back into prominence, touted by authorities as heroes, after the military’s ouster of Mubarak’s elected successor, Islamist Mohammed Morsi.
Since Morsi’s ouster on July 3, security forces have jailed thousands of members of his Muslim Brotherhood, which has been declared a terrorist organization. Hundreds of Morsi supporters were killed in police crackdowns on their protests. Amid a wave of nationalist sentiment, the crackdown has extended to other critics: A number of journalists and many of the top secular activists who led the anti-Mubarak uprising and oppose the military’s dominance have been detained.
A court sentenced a blogger, Ahmed Anwar, to three months in prison on Thursday for ‘‘insulting the police’’ and ‘‘misusing the Internet’’ over a video he posted on YouTube depicting policemen belly dancing — mocking police for giving an award to a belly dancer.
Anwar said he would appeal, saying the ruling contradicts the new constitution. ‘‘Everyone and the media hailed [it] as the best constitution. I was sentenced for a video,’’ he said.
The deputy Mideast-North Africa director of Amnesty International called on Egyptian authorities to ‘‘change course and take concrete steps to show they respect human rights and rule of law,’’ including the release of ‘‘prisoners of conscience.’’
Otherwise, ‘‘Egypt is likely to find its jails packed with unlawfully detained prisoners and its morgues and hospitals with yet more victims of arbitrary and abusive force by its police,’’ said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry described the comments as ‘‘tarnishing the facts’’ and said the government respects human rights while it is engaged in ‘‘combating terrorism.’’
Authorities have justified many police actions as part of a fight against terrorism, amid a wave of Islamist militant attacks since Morsi’s ouster. That message has met strong sympathy among much of the public.
Millions protested against rule by Morsi and the Brotherhood over the summer, prompting the coup. Since then, pro-military media have touted the police as heroes and often brand secular activists critical of the police, military, or Mansour’s government as Morsi supporters or foreign agents.
In the latest violence, masked gunmen sprayed a police checkpoint in the central province of Bani Sueif with bullets, killing five policemen and wounding two. Thousands of mourners chanted against Morsi at the funeral.
Mansour’s comments came in a speech for Police Day, a holiday honoring the security forces, which coincides with the anniversary of the uprising against Mubarak on Jan. 25, 2011. The day could bring rival rallies into the streets.