In Egypt, a violent campaign to subvert the revolution
The Army joined with armed thugs yesterday to force protesters out of Cairo's Tahrir Square – one of many incidents lately that make Egyptians blame regime elements for trying to limit the scope of the revolution.
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"They are using some criminals, and we know very well that these criminals were part of the plan of state security in order to harm the security of the population. ... The NDP and some businessmen always used to use them in election campaigns, and they are responsible for them," he says. "They are trying to harm the security and now they are playing with the religious issues in order to push Egypt toward civil war."Skip to next paragraph
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On March 4, a Muslim crowd torched a church in a village south of Cairo. Two days ago, Christians protesting the act say they were attacked by a Muslim crowd. Thirteen people were killed and more than 140 wounded.
There is little evidence that the episode was incited by thugs, and violence against Christians was common in Egypt before the revolution. Yet presidential candidate and head of the Arab League Amr Moussa said Thursday that suspicious elements were inciting sectarian strife.
Army and thugs work together in Tahrir Square
Mr. Sharaf’s cabinet said on Wednesday it would stand against attempts at counterrevolution, and said its priority is ensuring security in Egypt.
The prime minister ordered the police force, which was withdrawn on Jan. 28 and has not been fully deployed since, back out on the streets in force. The cabinet is also said to be discussing a new law that would levy severe penalties on the “thugs” who attack civilians. The use of such plainclothes attackers is particularly dangerous because demonstrators can't identify them and bring them to justice, says Ms. Motaparthy of HRW.
“When plainclothes people who have no known affiliation attack people, it's very difficult to hold anyone accountable for what happened,” she says.
Some Egyptians were astonished Wednesday afternoon in Tahrir Square to see the thugs that are the target of the proposed law working together with the Army to clear the square of protesters.
“The Army and thugs attacked the sit-in and violently removed tents, and attacked the protesters with sticks, together, hand in hand,” says Salma, a protester who was sitting outside her tent at the time. “They came together, and they were doing this together.”
The young woman, who did not want to give her last name, said she saw hundreds of protesters taken into the nearby Egyptian museum and beaten. Her friend, Ramy Essam, who became well-known during the revolution for writing and playing songs on his guitar in the square, was severely beaten by Army soldiers for three to four hours before being released. The soldiers stripped his clothes off, beat him with metal bars, kicked him with their boots, shocked him with a tazer, and cut off his hair, she said. He is now recovering in the hospital.
Many severely beaten, 190 still detained
But 190 people are still being held. They were transferred to a military detention center and are being held without access to their laywers, says Motaparthy. Many of them were also severely beaten. It’s unclear whether they will be released, like the 27 protesters who were detained at the state security building Sunday and released a day later, or whether they will face military trials.
Those arrested Sunday also reported being severely beaten.
One man, who asked that his name be withheld for his own protection, said Army soldiers grabbed him and took him inside the state security building. There, men without uniforms used his T-shirt to blindfold him, he says, and then brutally beat him for two hours. His back is covered with marks from being hit with metal objects, and he has horrible bruising on his legs and thighs.
Such abuse is what characterized the security apparatus under Mubarak, and is part of what Egyptians fought to rid themselves of in the revolution. “This is proof for me that the Army is oppressive just like the police and everyone else,” says Salma.