Tuesday,17 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1279, (21 - 27 January 2016)
Tuesday,17 October, 2017
Issue 1279, (21 - 27 January 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Security forces ‘on high alert’

The Interior Ministry is tightening security ahead of the fifth anniversary of 25 January Revolution, reports Ahmed Morsy

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Al-Ahram Weekly

The Interior Ministry, in coordination with the army, will secure vital institutions on the fifth anniversary of the 25 January Revolution.

“The Interior Ministry has considerable experience in securing such occasions,” an official security source told Al-Ahram Weekly. “In recent months it policed New Year’s celebrations and Coptic Christmas and secured the parliamentary elections.”

“Ahead of the fifth anniversary of 25 January Revolution, Interior Ministry departments across the country have been placed on high alert. Security measures have been stepped up in streets and squares to secure all vital facilities and all holiday leave for officers has been cancelled.”

Plainclothed officers and counter-terrorism specialists, backed up by mobile patrol units, will be deployed on the streets during the anniversary.

“Explosives experts will also be deployed around city squares, along major thoroughfares and in the vicinity of police stations, business centres and public parks. They will regularly comb areas identified as possible targets for explosive devices,” said the source.

The Interior Ministry’s bomb disposal unit recently acquired 48 robots to defuse explosives.

Major General Mohamed Sakr, head of the Interior Ministry’s Civil Protection Department, has called on the public to report any suspicious objects by calling 180.

“Citizens should inform the Bomb Disposal Unit of any abandoned cars or unaccompanied bags,” Sakr told state-owned Middle East News Agency (MENA).

It is no coincidence that the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak began on 25 January, National Police Day. For decades, the security apparatus had acted as the iron fist of the regime. Abuses reached an apogee under Mubarak’s long-time interior minister, Habib Al-Adli, and many people took to the streets in protest at the torture, corruption and oppression that had come to characterise the police force.

Calls for protests “against the current regime and its widely publicised human rights abuses” have been circulating on social media outlets. In response, the Interior Ministry has arrested activists from across the political spectrum.

On 14 January, Taher Mokhtar, the head of the Freedoms Committee at the Doctors’ Syndicate, NGO worker Ahmed Hassan and student Hossam Hamad were arrested from their house in the Falaki area of downtown Cairo. They were referred to the Abdeen prosecution on Friday and accused of “possessing leaflets calling for the fall of the regime”.

The Doctors’ Syndicate says banners and documents found in Mokhtar’s possession and confiscated as evidence relate to his job as “head of the freedoms file, which requires him to follow up on the medical status of prisoners in detention”.

Calling for the release of Mokhtar, the Al-Nadeem Centre for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence described him as “a doctor who never denied treatment to anyone who needed medical care”.

The alleged mistreatment of sick prisoners, which Mokhtar has been instrumental in documenting, has been a cause of major controversy in Egypt.

On the same day Mohktar was arrested security forces stormed the headquarters of the Misr Al-Arabyia news website and detained its managing editor, Ahmed Abdel-Gawad. Abdel-Gawad was released the following day after prosecutors described the report filed against the news website as “unclear”. Prosecutors concluded that the website did not include content that was “flawed” or “[aimed] to threaten national security”.

A number of political activists were detained in December. They included April 6 Youth Movement members Mohamed Nabil, Sherif Ali, Ayman Osama, Mahmoud Hisham and Sherif Al-Roubi, all of whom have been charged with belonging to a banned organisation and calling for demonstrations.

In response, 70 public figures issued a statement condemning the “recent spate of activist arrests” and calling for the immediate release of prisoners detained under the Protest Law, passed in 2013, under which thousands of protesters have been jailed.

The signatories includied leftist leader Ahmed Fawzi, journalist Esraa Abdel-Fattah, political satirist Bassem Youssef, politician Bassem Kamel, rights lawyer Gamal Eid, politician Gameela Ismail, Popular Current Party founder Hamdeen Sabahi, Journalists’ Syndicate board member Khaled Al-Balshi, rights lawyer Khaled Ali, lawyer and former parliamentarian Ziad Al-Alaimy, rights lawyer Tarek Al-Awadi, rights activist Aida Saif Al-Dawla and novelist Alaa Al-Aswani. The statement accused security forces of employing the same tactics used in the run-up to the January 25 Revolution.

The signatories expressed their “utter condemnation of the arrests of large numbers of political activists by security forces on fabricated charges that lack any proof” and warned that the policies being pursued by the Interior Ministry “will lead to more anger among the ranks of younger generations”.

“Egyptian youth,” the statement continued, “will not rest until a civil state, which respects diversity and public liberties, including the right of free speech and protest, is established.”

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