Egyptians have surrounded the Interior Ministry in Egypt and have been making attempts to take control of the building. The Egyptian people's commitment to taking this building over would be a tremendous sign of people power. The Interior Ministry has been a prime purveyor of police brutality, torture, and state repression under President Hosni Mubarak.
The following, posted on Al Nadeem, is but one story of brutality that has been allowed to become a normal facet of Egyptian society:
Sunday, the 6th of June at 11.30 p.m., young Khaled Said, 28 years old, from Alexandria was in a internet cafÃ© in the district of Cleopatra when a group of police informers entered the cafÃ© and started inquiring about the internet users. When they reached Khaled they tried to search him. He refused and asked for the reason. We shall not address the flood of abuses that were thrown by the police, nor shall we go into the details of the search that resulted in the theft of Khaled's money, nor the details of the beating that followed inside and outside the cafÃ©.. the only relevant details is that Khaled's life ended by the hands of the Sidi Gaber policemen.. for no reason, for no crime, with no rationale other than the ruthless, senseless brutality, thuggery and criminality of a regime served by a ministry of interior whose forces are systematically using torture, confident that they are above the law, accountable to no one.
Suffice it to say that Khaled Said entered the internet cafÃ© a handsome young man and by the end of the day he was a lifeless body, brutally and monstrously killed by the trained criminals of the Egyptian ministry of Interior.
In the aftermath of the incident, the Interior Ministry did not apologize. It did not own up to its actions. The Interior Minister was not impeached or removed from power. On the contrary, ten youth including two women who were protesting were arrested by police and prosecuted for expressing opposition to the Interior Ministry.
WikiLeaks cables released on Egypt provide specific details on how the Interior Ministry has been granted "broad powers" by the Egyptian government:
Since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, EGYPT has almost continuously been under a State of Emergency. The State of Emergency allows for the application of the Emergency Law of 1958, which grants the government broad powers to restrict civil liberties by acting outside the civil and criminal codes. Article 3 of the Emergency Law allows the president to order "placing restrictions on personal freedom of assembly, movement, residence, traffic in specific areas at specific times," and "the arrest of suspects or individuals threatening public security and order," and arrests and searches without implementation of the law of criminal procedures..." In practice, the Interior Ministry carries out "the order" of the President either orally or in writing. Article 3 also authorizes surveillance of personal messages and confiscation of publications"
The above mentioned cable suggests that in many cases Egyptians who are detained and imprisoned cannot demand a court hearing until after 30 days in prison. They can re-submit demands for hearings to challenge their detention every 30 days. And, a judge is able to uphold detention orders indefinitely. So, essentially, people are afforded the same rights that the U.S. affords "enemy combatants" in the global war on terror.
Many of these cables have already seen the contents of these cables thanks to Facebook, Twitter and other social media and also because people closely or loosely affiliated with the hacktivist group "Anonymous" have been faxing cables into Egypt to get past the Internet blackout.
The Emergency Law gives the president the power to restrict "personal freedom of assembly." The law makes possible the criminalization of any assemblies of five or more people and also requires citizens who wish to hold gatherings to notify police prior to the gathering so that gatherings can be prevented if necessary.
One cable explicitly calls attention to the problem of police brutality and prison conditions in Egypt and how the Interior Ministry has been behind torture and abuse:
In a January 12 meeting with Interior Ministry State Security Director Rahman, A/S Posner asked what measures the GOE takes to address police brutality and difficult prison conditions, and what the U.S. could do to help. Rahman said "in the past ten years" there has been "no abuse of prisoners at all." He acknowledged there may have been "some violations" against "terrorists" in prison in the 1970's and 1980's. Posner raised the case of XXXXXXXXXXXXX who was abused by police in XXXXXXXXXXX according to multiple NGO reports (refs C, D). (Note: The Ambassador raised this case with the Interior Minister in XXXXXXXX, per ref D. End note.) Rahman responded that when citizens do not "get what they want from the POLICE, they become angry." He asserted that XXXXXXXXXXXX husband is a "criminal," and beat her in the midst of a family dispute. Rahman said the MOI punishes any officer who commits violations. Rahman also said the Interior Ministry treats all prisoners well. More than 1,500 prisoners pursue university studies, he claimed, and he noted that the government is focused on prisoners' health and their rehabilitation.
A/S Posner also raised police brutality with MFA Deputy Assistant Minister for Human Rights Wael Aboulmagd who responded that the GOE takes the issue seriously. Aboulmagd said that since 2005, the Interior Ministry stopped paying fines for police officers found to have abused detainees. He noted increased
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