Egyptians torch HQ of reviled state security forces

Corruption trial starts for Mubarak’s interior minister as new appointment made; Amr Moussa begins presidential push.

By OREN KESSLER, JPOST.COM STAFF, , REUTERS
March 5, 2011 20:31
4 minute read.
Egyptian soldier following clashes in Alexandria

Egypt clashes 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS)

A state security building on the outskirts of the Egyptian capital was set alight on Saturday, a security source said, one day after some 200 protesters stormed state security headquarters in Alexandria.

It was not immediately clear who had set fire to the building in Egypt’s Sixth of October city, near Cairo. Some witnesses said they had seen police burning documents in the building, which had one floor burned out. Police said the property was set alight by citizens.

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At least seven people, including police and civilians, were injured, witnesses said.

Suspicion of the state security police, a branch of the police force which Egyptians say has treated citizens with a very heavy hand, has grown since police clashed with demonstrators during protests that led to the toppling of veteran president Hosni Mubarak on February 11.

Also Saturday, an Egyptian criminal court began the first hearing in the case against former Interior Minister Habib al-Adli, charged with money-laundering and profiteering, the state news agency MENA reported.

Adli was a reviled figure during the protests that led to Mubarak’s ouster, and demonstrators had demanded his sacking after police beat, tear-gassed and fired rubber bullets at them.

Bank accounts belonging to Adli and his family were frozen last month following accusations that more than 4 million Egyptian pounds ($678,100) had been transferred to his personal account by a head of a contractor company, state television said.

The next hearing in the case against Adli will be held on April 2, pending investigation of the relevant documents, MENA said.

Around 100 family members of victims killed in the protests gathered in front of the court Saturday demanding Adli's execution, a witness said. Investigations into the violence during the protests are under way.

On Sunday, Egypt instated  Mansour el-Essawy as the new interior minister, replacing Mahmoud Wagdy who was instated after Adli was sacked. Protesters demanded Wagdy's disposal as well, claiming he belonged to the old ruling elite. 

Official news agencies related that the new minister announced his intentions to strengthen state security, which has deteriorated since a number of police quit their posts and several others disappeared fearing vengeance on behalf of the citizen population.

Essawy announced that he plans to build the homeland security system anew and restore its credibility in the eyes of the Egyptian populace.

A day earlier, Egypt’s new prime minister told thousands of demonstrators in Tahrir Square that he was committed to the goals of their revolution and promised to take to the streets in protest if he could not deliver.

Egypt’s military rulers had designated Essam Sharaf prime minister on Thursday, meeting demands for the removal of Ahmed Shafiq in a step seen as an attempt to soak up anger that has fueled protests since Mubarak stepped down.

The military council has set a March 19 date for a referendum on constitutional amendments that will open up competition for the presidency, held by Mubarak for three decades, the government announced on Friday.

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Sharaf also addressed demands for the reform of security services whose reputation for brutality helped fuel the uprising, saying the police should be in the service of citizens

Meanwhile, veteran diplomat Amr Moussa talked economics and social justice when he hit the campaign trail for the Egyptian presidency with a string of interviews that flagged him as the front runner for the job.

Arab League secretary-general for the last decade, Moussa, 74, is the most prominent figure yet to declare his candidacy for the position.

In a country where years of oppression have crushed political life, Moussa’s high profile, oratorial skills and charisma have given him a natural head start.

An online poll on the Web site of the Al-Ahram newspaper on Thursday showed him with a big lead over ElBaradei, who is widely expected to run but has yet to announce his candidacy.

“The Egyptian economy must move on two wheels: the free market and social justice,” Moussa said in an interview with the Al- Masry Al-Youm newspaper, one of at least three he gave this week.

The economic policies of the last decade had resulted in “overwhelming poverty for the majority and obscene wealth for the minority,” he said, adding that growth had not benefited a large proportion of the population.

Moussa’s move into economics marked a step away from the diplomacy that has defined his career. He was Egypt's foreign minister for 10 years until 2001, before being moved to the Arab League position, which he will soon relinquish. As foreign minister, Moussa was an outspoken advocate for the Palestinians as Cairo played a leading role in the Middle East peace process.

His popularity was widely assumed to be the reason Mubarak removed him from the Foreign Ministry in 2001. To some, the final straw for Mubarak seemed to be the release of the 2001 Egyptian pop hit, “I hate Israel, I love Amr Moussa.”


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