The Egyptian military says it is playing a neutral role in the protests rocking the country but the reality is very different, human rights groups tell the Guardian. Hundreds, possibly thousands of protesters have been secretly detained by the military and some have been tortured, the groups say. Some families are desperately seeking relatives believed to have vanished into the custody of the military, which—unlike the notorious state security intelligence—isn't usually associated with human rights abuses.
"Their range is very wide, from people who were at the protests or detained for breaking curfew to those who talked back to an army officer or were handed over to the army for looking suspicious or for looking like foreigners even if they weren't," said the director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. "It's unusual and to the best of our knowledge it's also unprecedented for the army to be doing this." Released detainees have given graphic accounts of being tortured by soldiers, who warned them not to return to protests.