Interior Minister Warns Egypt Could Turn into Militia-State
Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat-Egypt’s Interior Minister warned yesterday that if country’s police forces were to collapse, Egypt would become a militia-state like some neighboring countries.
The grim assessment by Interior Minister Muhammad Ibrahim- who offered to resign if it were to satisfy the Egyptian people-comes after eight days of protests that killed nearly 60 people.
Furthermore, a video of a demonstrator stripped naked, dragged across the ground and beaten with batons by helmeted riot police has fired Egyptians to a new level of outrage.
The beating was caught on camera by The Associated Press and the video was broadcast live on Egyptian television late Friday as protests raged in the streets outside the presidential palace. The AP video showed police trying to bundle the naked man into a police van after beating him.
However, the protester in the video, Hamada Saber, later said in an interview from his hospital bed that the riot police were helping him rather than beating him, a statement Saber’s family disputes and says was made under police pressure. Moreover, Saber’s hospital statement contradicts the Interior Ministry’s statement. Speaking to reporters Interior Minister Ibrahim said that initial results from the public prosecutor’s investigation show that 48-year-old Hamada Saber was undressed by “rioters” during skirmishes between police and protesters. He was then hit in the foot by a bird shot, the interior minister said, stopping short of saying if the injury was a result of police firing into the crowds.
“The central security forces then found him lying on the ground and tried to put him in an armored vehicle, though the way in which they did that was excessive,” said Ibrahim.
However, a woman identifying herself as Mr. Saber’s daughter Randa, said in on Egyptian television that her father was forced to lie during the interview and was afraid to talk. We were with him when he was attacked on Friday, she said. They took his clothes off and started kicking him, beating him, she said, referring to the police. They dragged him and put him in the car. All this happened. What he says are lies. The New York Times reported.
“This shows that state institutions are collapsing, as is the rule of law. We are living in chaos,” said lawyer Achraf Shazly, 35. “Next thing you know, the martyr killed yesterday will rise from the dead and say he wasn’t shot.” The incident was an unmistakable reminder of the beating of a woman by riot police on Tahrir Square in December 2011. Images of her being dragged and stomped on – her black abaya cloak torn open to reveal her naked torso and blue bra – became a rallying symbol for the revolution and undermined the interim military rulers who held power between Mubarak’s fall and Mursi’s rise.
The rise of Mursi-the first freely elected leader in Egypt’s 5,000-year history-is probably the single most important change achieved by two years of revolts across the Arab world. But seven months since taking office, he has failed to unite Egyptians. Street unrest and political instability threaten to render the most populous Arab state ungovernable.
The latest round of violence was triggered by the second anniversary of the uprising against Mubarak and death sentences handed down last week in Port Said over a soccer stadium riot.
Mursi has had little opportunity to reform the police and security forces he inherited from Mubarak and the military men.
But the police action against protests this time has been far deadlier than it was even a few months ago, when bigger crowds demonstrated against a new constitution. That suggests to opponents that Mursi has ordered a tougher response.
“The instructions of the interior minister to use excessive violence in confronting protesters does not seem like surprising behavior given the clear incitement by prominent figures in the presidency,” said opposition coalition spokesman Khaled Daoud.
The liberal, leftist and secularist opposition accuses Mursi of betraying the revolution that toppled Mubarak by concentrating too much power in his own hands and those of his Muslim Brotherhood, a formerly underground Islamist movement.
Mursi and the Brotherhood accuse the opposition of stoking street unrest to further their demands for a national unity government as a way to retake power they lost at the ballot box.
In announcing an investigation into the beating of Saber, Mursi’s office made clear he was still pointing the blame at the political opponents who have encouraged protests.
“What has transpired over the past day is not political expression, but rather acts of criminality. The presidency will not tolerate vandalism or attacks on individuals and property. The police have responded to these actions in a restrained manner,” Mursi’s office said.
“Doubtless, in the heat of the violence, there can be violations of civil liberties, and the presidency equally will not tolerate such abuses. In one incident, an individual was seen to be dragged and beaten by police. The Minister of Interior has, appropriately, announced an investigation.”