Essam Sharaf speaks to thousands of pro-democracy campaigners who had gathered in centre of Cairo after Friday prayers.
|Acitvists say they were attempting to retrieve papers documenting rights abuses by state security services [Reuters]|
Egyptian protesters have stormed several state security buildings, seizing documents and attempting to retrieve files kept on alleged human rights abuses in the country.
The 500,000-strong internal security services are accused of some of the worst human rights violations while attempting to suppress dissent against former president Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.
Protesters stormed inside at least six of the buildings on Saturday, including the agency’s main headquarters in Cairo’s northern Nasr City neighbourhood, confronting and attacking some officers.
The protesters are demanding the agency be dismantled and its leaders be put on trial.
“We are inside, hundreds of us.” Mohammed Abdel-Fattah, one of the protesters who barged into the Nasr City compound on Saturday, told the Associated Press.
“We are fetching documents and we are looking for detainees.”
Around 2,500 people swept into the compound, according to state media.
Abdel-Fattah said they barged in from the back doors, and the military, which had cordoned off the building, could not stop them.
They scoured the building for official documents, many of which were already shredded in piles or burned in what they believe was an attempt to hide evidence incriminating senior officials in abuses. Some also searched the building for secret detention rooms.
Army officers tried to get protesters out of the compound, but did not use force. One army officer rescued a state security officer from angry protesters and ushered him into a tank.
Egypt’s State Security Investigations (SSI) which were given a free hand by emergency laws under Mubarak, are some of the most powerful symbols of the former regime.
Many protest leaders say despite the fall of Mubarak and his government, the agency remains active in protecting the old regime and trying to sabotage the revolution.
The SSI counts for at least 100,000 employees and a large network of informants, a security official told AFP news agency.
On Friday, Egypt’s newly appointed prime minister Essam Sharaf vowed to reform the dreaded security apparatus as he addressed thousands of people in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
“I pray that Egypt will be a free country and that its security apparatus will serve the citizens,” he said, as thousands chanted “the people want the end of the state security.”
Mubarak resigned on February 11, handing power to a military council that has vowed to pave the way to a free and democratic system, pledging to bring to justice all those found guilty of abuse.
Torture ‘widely practised’
Activists say that while once torture was reserved for political prisoners and terrorism suspects, it became widely practised even on petty criminal suspects.
The most recent case to have dominated headlines and sparked demonstrations was of Khaled Said, a 28-year-old man beaten to death by two undercover police officers on a street in Alexandria last year.
Other notorious cases include Emad el-Kabir, who was sodomised with a stick in a police station in 2007, with images of the torture recorded on a mobile phone and broadcast on the Internet.
A total of seven police officers have been sentenced for torture or inhumane treatment since 2006, but no one from the SSI, has ever been prosecuted for torture.