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Egypt becoming police state, Islamists say

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Hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters were killed in a crackdown on the movement by the military in 2013. (Source: CNN) Hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters were killed in a crackdown on the movement by the military in 2013. (Source: CNN)

CAIRO (CNN) - Egyptians are set to go to the polls in May to elect a new president.

But the vote will be taking place in what some say is an increasing "climate of fear."

Islamists are facing an ongoing crackdown. Hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters were sentenced to death this week.

It was the second mass trial in Egypt in two-months, drawing sharp criticism from the U.N. and the E.U.

Most of the defendants from Monday's trial remain in hiding.

On a grainy video call from a secret location, defendant Hossam Shabib can't stop saying how much he misses Egypt and his family.

"I miss Egypt. I miss my wife. I miss my children.  I miss the weather. I miss the streets," he said.

For more than a month now, Shabib, a medical doctor, has been hiding from Egyptian authorities.

Coming back home means facing a death sentence in the notorious mass trial where Shabib says he and hundreds of others were falsely accused of killing a police officer.

His aging father wonders when he'll see his son again.

"I can't stop my tears from rolling," said Salah Shabib.

Ismail Tharwet was also sentenced to death. He too is hiding.

Hi son Mohamed is worried.

Ahmed el-Qorany also is on the run.

His wife and baby girl miss him.

"My children are waiting for him to show up," says his wife Hanaa. "Every time they hear a motorbike, they think it's him."

These days in Egypt,  hundreds are hiding from authorities. Many others, afraid to speak out because of what rights groups call a growing climate of fear.

The fear and silence followed the ouster last year of former President Mohammed Morsy.

Within weeks security forces had killed more than 1,000 Morsy backers and arrested thousands of others in the first signs of a crackdown on dissent.

Soon, authorities outlawed protests without government permission, and set up hotlines for Egyptians to report anyone they deemed suspicious.

Be careful what you say in public, was the warning that quickly spread.

"We used to say God is watching. Now we say security is watching," said Hanaa Gemal.

The arrests and convictions kept piling up.

In January, when three young men put up posters against the new constitution, they were arrested and convicted of disturbing the peace.

Journalists are locked up, with little or no evidence.

Rights groups say hundreds of children have been illegally detained, many allege torture.

Claims the government denies. The arrests and new laws have all been aimed at bringing stability,  they say.

When secular activists spoke out, they too were arrested, including many faces of the 2011 revolution.

"They are trying to frighten ordinary people," said Hany el-Gamal, a pro-democracy activist.

Fear of prison and a death sentence has kept Hossam Shabib underground and cost him his medical practice.

"There is no justice right now," he said.

Until he sees change, Shabib says he'll stay in hiding from a country he fears is returning to a police state.

Copyright 2014 CNN. All rights reserved.

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