Concern over Mubarak-era political, religious monitoring's return

"The police are now empowered, but as long as they are depending on popular anti-Brotherhood sentiment to act, grave violations are inevitable," said Kotri

Concern over Mubarak-era political, religious monitoring's return

World Bulletin/News Desk

A decision by Egyptian authorities to bring back the former State Security Agency units on monitoring political and religious activities, which had notorious reputation under ousted president Hosni Mubarak, is sending shockwaves among political activists and human rights advocates.

"It was shocking that post-25 January we would have an interior minister shamelessly defending and vowing to bring back the practices of the State Security," prominent activist and blogger Hossam al-Hamalawi told Anadolu Agency.

Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim announced on Saturday the reinstating of the former State Security units on combatting extremism and monitoring religious and political activity.

The announcement was made a few hours after supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi were attacked by police forces, killing 88 protesters.

"It would be the biggest mistake committed since the revolution to reassemble the old guard to the State Security apparatus," Mahmoud Kotri, an ex-police officer and security expert, told AA.

"It was the entity that turned Egypt into a police state. To bring it back is to bring the Mubarak regime back."

The State Security Agency, many of whose units were disbanded following the 2011 January revolution, was under constant scrutiny from human rights groups for extrajudicial measures, including systematic torture, abuse and prolonged detentions without court orders, against Mubarak's opposition, especially Islamists.

The pivotal unit of combatting extremism and monitoring political activity was the information-gathering sector inside the State Security.

"I'm very concerned about the ramifications of continuing the excessive force against protesters but I was not surprised at the interior minister's statements," Diana El-Tahawi, researcher in Amnesty North Africa, told AA.

"Responding to the army's call for protest on Friday should not automatically be translated into condoning extraordinary measures," Mai Wahba, a spokesperson for the Tamarod youth group, told AA.

Army chief and Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, who ousted Morsi on July 3 following mass protests against his regime, had asked people to take to the streets last Friday to give him a popular mandate to "confront violence and terrorism."


Observers fear security forces, ostensibly emboldened by newly-found popular backing following Morsi's ouster - appear to be starting to return to their heavy-handed tactics against protesters, who still stand their ground against the Islamist president's removal by the military.

"Ibrahim's overconfident disposition following Friday's pro-army protests reflected enablement by the public hysteria [against Islamists] stoked by the state and the media that would lead to facilitate the uprooting of the [Muslim] Brotherhood, as well as any opposition voice, by Mubarak regime figures," said al-Hamalawi, the activist.

The interior minister's remarks came after hundreds of thousands took to the streets in Tahrir and in several cities across Egypt in response to Sisi's contentious call for protest.

"I have great concerns about the current massive support for the army and police that we're seeing now and the grave violations that could be committed by the state under its cover," al-Hamalawi added.

Kotri, the former police officer, agrees.

"After their sense of defeat for two and a half years since the 25 January revolution, police officers were carried on shoulders in Tahrir Square by anti-Morsi protesters, which restored their sense of empowerment."

A number of political figures and groups - including some who supported the army's ouster of Morsi - as well as several human rights organizations, have condemned the police's use of excessive violence against pro-Morsi protesters on Saturday.

The military-backed government accuses the protesters of attacking opponents, warning that the Egyptian state would not tolerate blackmail and "terrorism" of its citizens.

Ibrahim, the interior minister, has repeatedly announced it was only a matter of time before they disperse pro-Morsi sit-ins in Rab'a al-Adaweya in Cairo and Nahda Square in Giza, which hold tens of thousands of protesters.

He said the police and the army are in the process of deciding on a day to disperse the two main pro-Morsi mass sit-ins.

With Saturday's violence near Rab'a in the background, the scenario of an imminent violent confrontation between the masses of Morsi's supporters and security forces seems very likely and loss of lives is feared.

"It is the interior ministry's longstanding modus operandi to give such warnings right before a crackdown," recalls Kotri, the former police officer.

"The police are now empowered, but as long as they are depending on popular anti-Brotherhood sentiment to act, grave violations are inevitable."

Rights lawyer Negad El-Boraie seems to agree.

"It is the responsibility of the liberals installed in the new government to provide guarantees that the law will not be violated. They should know by now what oppression leads to," he told AA.

"But I highly doubt that this is what will actually happen, at least in the near future. Under the current political circumstances, violations by the state will be committed and they will not be accounted for."

Güncelleme Tarihi: 30 Temmuz 2013, 15:36