Egyptian protesters breach ‘torture center,’ seize files
Egyptian protesters breached a secret police compound in eastern Cairo on Saturday and carted boxes of files, according to rights activists and Egyptian media reports.
“Protesters entered the State Security Investigations (SSI) compound in Nasr City, a place they call the ‘torture center’ of Egypt, just before 7 p.m.,” Priyanka Motaparthy, a research fellow with U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, reported from the scene.
“They dragged out as many documents and materials as they could, to protect them from being destroyed,” Motaparthy added.
Army officers did nothing to stop them, she said.
“Protesters began gathering in front of the Nasr City compound around 4 p.m. and by 5:30," Motaparthy reported. "We observed a crowd of at least 250” persons gathered outside. “Just before 7, we found a side entrance, where army officers stood by as people entered.”
The invaders amassed “several large trash bags full of shredded paper, file folders still intact, computer hard drives, and a green metal safe,” Motaparthy reported.
UPDATE: "These events happened inside a walled compound, which had mutiple buildings inside," Motaparthy added Sunday. "It's true that army officers didn't stop protestors from looking through and collecting documents inside the courtyard of the compound. However, the army did not allow people to remove documents from the compound, and they frisked them as they were leaving to ensure this. The army retains custody of the documents, and the public prosecutor's office is overseeing as well."
Some protesters “wandered through the halls of the building, shouting ‘Where are the prisoners?’” she continued. “They were searching for the secret detention cells where political prisoners were held and often tortured. “
The protesters also said they found “the files of well-known Egyptian activists who faced torture,” Motaparthy reported, and demanded that “a representative from the public prosecutor’s office come and oversee safe transport of the documents.”
The English-language Ahram Online newspaper added that the activists were “calling on whoever was detained or tortured there to join the protest and not leave before the military takes over.”
In Alexandria the night before, meanwhile, protesters also “stormed” the State Security headquarters, according to Human Rights Watch. One of those who entered the building said they found only “mountains of shredded paper.”
Ahram Online reported that the State Security compounds in Alexandria and 6th of October City, on the edge of Cairo, “are under the rule of the military, while Qena, Port Said, Zagazig, Domiat and Tanta state security buildings have seen fires erupt and protesters calling for action to prevent document burning.”
In 2005, the State Department said the SSI operated with a “culture of impunity.”
“Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of persons have been detained administratively in recent years under the Emergency Law on suspicion of terrorist or political activity,” it said, quoting Egyptian human rights sources. “Several thousand others have been convicted and were serving sentences on similar charges.”
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