Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood on Wednesday turned up the pressure on the country's military rulers to change a disputed new election law, even holding out the possibility of a boycott of upcoming parliamentary elections unless the bill is amended.
In a statement posted on the website of the Brotherhood's political arm, the group demanded the law be changed to allow party lists to contest all of the seats in parliament, including those currently allocated to only to individual candidates.
"We reject participation in the elections unless the article is changed," said the statement, which was signed by the coalition of The Democratic Alliance, which includes 37 parties along with the Brotherhood's Freedom and Equality party.
Many Egyptian political groups say limiting the voting to party lists would make it harder for former members of Mubarak's now-outlawed ruling party to run. They say the change would also help make Egypt's politics less about personalities and more about policies.
Brotherhood officials tried to downplay the threat to boycott the parliamentary elections, slated to being Nov. 28, saying the group would not skip the vote.
"Everybody is talking about a boycott, but we are not behind a boycott because it means postponing the transfer of power, which we don't want to do," said Mohammed el-Beltagi, a leading Brotherhood party member.
It seems unlikely the Brotherhood and other Islamist groups would be inclined to skip the vote. They are among the best organized political forces in Egypt, and best prepared to win a big share of seats.
The coalition of parties also demanded the ruling military council pass a law that would ban officials involved in the misuse of power under Mubarak from running in elections for the next 10 years, and called for the lifting of much-hated emergency laws, which were reactivated earlier this month after protesters ransacked the Israeli Embassy in Cairo.
The new parliament will select a committee of 100 to draft the new constitution. Secular groups are worried that a parliament dominated by Islamists could influence the outlook of the new constitution.
Also Wednesday, Egypt's military prosecutor opened an inquiry into a video showing a dozen Egyptian police and military officers beating and giving electric shocks to two detainees while laughing and filming the torture with their cell phones.
The video circulating on social networking sites shows the two men, one in a gray Egyptian robe and the second in a green shirt, being beaten repeatedly while they are questioned about the source of guns and rifles seized from them in the northern Nile Delta province of Dakahliya. When they refused to answer, the detainees are repeatedly given electric shocks on their ears and chins.
The footage was a reminder of much-hated police practices under Mubarak's rule that served as one of the motivating forces behind the popular uprising that toppled Mubarak's regime in February.
"The presence of military police inside a civilian police station, and beating up detainees to force them to confess, is kidnapping," said Malik Adly, a lawyer and activist at the Hisham Mubarak Law Center.
A security official said that the two men were arrested and sentenced to up to 15-year in prison for arms trafficking. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.
Egypt's MENA state news agency said the military prosecutor has opened an inquiry.
Adly said that his center will file a lawsuit to the public prosecutor since military investigations are highly secretive and rights lawyers have never had access to the files of the cases.
"The mentality of the police and the military has not changed," he said. "This is no surprise to us because it is happening everyday, to every detainee."
Meanwhile, Egypt's powerful former information minister was convicted of corruption and sentenced to seven years in prison, in the latest conviction of a high-ranking figure of Mubarak's regime.
Anas el-Fiqqi joins a growing list of former regime officials to have been convicted of crimes committed during Mubarak's rule, along with the ex-interior minister, tourism minister and a ruling party insider and steel magnate. Former state television chief Osama el-Sheikh also was sentenced Wednesday to five years in prison in the same case as el-Fiqqi.
Meting out justice to former regime officials has been a driving force behind continued protests and activists have accused the country's military rulers of dragging their heels in the prosecution of former Mubarak cronies.