Police crack down on Kefaya demo; at least 35 detained

Police cracked down on Kefaya’s demonstration against Mubarak’s authoritarian constitutional reforms on Thursday, detaining more than 35 activists.

I arrived in Tahrir Sq by 5pm… The last time I recall seeing Cairo as I saw it today, was probably in March 2003 with the crackdown on the anti-war riots. Central Security Forces trucks were everywhere. I spotted at least seven trucks by the Egyptian Museum, four at Abdel Moneim Riyadh Sq, at least three in Mohamed Mahmoud St. in front of the American University in Cairo, at least six by the Mugamma’ neighboring the US embassy in Garden City. The uniformed soldiers were not initially deployed outside their trucks, but the entire downtown area was occupied by plainclothes security agents from State Security police who were literally on every single corner, street and square in the company of three or four uniformed police generals, and some senior security officials in suits.

CSF troops in Talaat Harb Sq (Pic by Hossam el-Hamalawy)

Scattered groups of activists in threes, fours, or fives were, as usual in these situations, roaming downtown, talking over the phone trying to relocate the meeting point from which crowds could re-assemble and try to storm their way to Tahrir Sq… but security was exponentially outnumbering any crowd, and moved quickly to abort any attempt of regrouping.

I managed together with Demagh MAK, Randa and Hagg Gergess to slip our way past the security into the Tahrir Sq facing the beginning of Talaat Harb St. In few seconds we were surrounded by at least a dozen of plainclothes agents and a uniformed general asked us to move. We refused and told him we were staying for the demonstration. He said there was none. We insisted there was. So he told us to go to the Press Syndicate, coz that was to be the only place we were allowed to demonstrate. Although the general was polite in his conversation, he was accompanied by a green-eyed, blond State Security agent in plainclothes, who was one hell of a rude fuck. Whenever me or the others calmed down when the general was speaking to us in a polite manner this agent would interfere and starts shoving. So we would boil in anger and start pushing him back. The scene lasted for ten minutes, until we decided to leave coz we were outnumbered and were likely to get nabbed easily. We started moving into Talaat Harb St., and teamed with a group of nearly a dozen activists carrying Kefaya’s yellow stickers… that’s when we received the news that at least 11, including Socialist activist Khaled Abdel Hamid, were kidnapped by the police in front of Felfela restaurant.

Kefaya activists march in Talaat Harb (Pic by Hossam el-Hamalawy)

We were moving slowly, and still pushed by the police from our backs into Talaat Harb Sq, and then we got into another scuffle with the same rude blond State Security agent in the middle of the square. He and his friends kept pushing us in the chests, so we started a slurring match, and pushing back and fourth. A battalion of uniformed CSF troops was mobilized quickly to surround the 12 of us. It was pathetic. Bloody pathetic, to see the regime mobilizing all of those troops for such a small number. The two women lawyers in the crowd screamed at the police after we were circled, and after good five minutes we escaped running towards the Tagammu Party HQ, from where I was hearing chants.

Scuffles in Talaat Harb Sq (Pic by Hossam el-Hamalawy)

The Tagammu was under siege by un-bloody-believable numbers of black-uniformed CSF troops and plainclothes thugs, as well as Gestapo agents and uniformed police generals. In front of the building gate there was a crowd of 200 (mainly left-wing) demonstrators, chanting “Down with Mubarak! Down with State Security!”

CSF troops surround Tagammu Party HQ (Pic by Hossam el-Hamalawy)

After a while we heard, still under security’s siege, chants coming from Talaat Harb Sq. It was Ghad Party activists who assembled in the balcony of their office, overlooking the square, joining the chants against the regime.

CSF troops clash with demonstrators in front of Tagammu Party (Pic by Hossam el-Hamalawy)

Demonstrators also burned US and Israeli flags, while chanting “Hosni Mubarak ahoh! Hosni Mubarak ahoh!” (That’s Hosni Mubarak! That’s Hosni Mubarak!).

Kefaya demonstrators burning Israel’s flag

On several occasions, the demonstrators clashed with the police and the line of plainclothes thugs the police deploys as a shield in front of the CSF troops. The demonstrators chanted against the interior minister General Adly, described the present troops as “Mubarak’s dogs,” and chanted the names of police officers involved in torture, like Islam Nabih and Mustafa Shehata. The demonstrators also chanted: “He, who bans demos, will join Sadat soon!”

Kefaya protestors chant against Mubarak

The scuffles fizzled down by 7:30pm, as the activists started a sit-in demanding the release of their detained comrades, who by then had reached a number between 32 to 37.

Scuffles (Pic by Hossam el-Hamalawy)

The detainees–we were told by leftist activists and rights lawyers who took their cars and started chasing the Police trucks that had the kidnapped activists–were taken to CSF troops camp in Darrassa (besides Al-Azhar Park). Later, the trucks took the detainees to El-Dhaher Police Station (halfway between Ramses and Ghamra), and that’s where they are now.

The lawyers have not been granted access to the detainees inside the police station, so we do not know the full number inside, but we think it’s 35. Two activists earlier were released before the trucks reached the police station. And now I’m told at least another four were released.

I’ll update the posting, as soon as I know the fate of the rest of the detainees.

UPDATE: 11 detainees have been released uptill now..

1-Abdel Khaleq Farouq

2-Mohamed Taher

3-Fathi Farid

4-Mohamed Saad Abdel Hafiz

5-Salah el-Weteidi

6-Mohamed Abdel Salam

7-Ahmad Islam

8-Amr Adel

9-Yehya el-Qazzaz

10-Abdel Hamid Arafa

11-Mohamed Ismail

UPDATE: It’s 1:30am now, three more have been released:

12-Mohssen Semeika

13-Mohamed Badr

14-Ahmad el-Gendy

UPDATE: It’s 3:30am now… No more detainees released, and still no access given to lawyers for those in the custody of El-Dhaher Police Station. The only thing the police station allowed, was passing the food and blankets bought by activists who had been assembling outside the police station, according to lawyer Ahmad Ragheb of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center who’s currently present in front of the police station. The officers also refused to disclose the full number and names of activists in their custody, but it’s believed there are at least 20 Kefaya members locked up, including: Khaled Abdel Hamid, Bahaa Saber, Waleed Salah, Nagui Rashad, Mohamed Malek, Mahmoud el-Wardani, Ahmad Alaa, Omar Ibrahim, Ahmad Abdel Gawad, Na’el Yehia, Mohamed Adel, Abdel Hadi el-Mashadd, Victor Naguib, Rami Tawfiq, Gad el-Islam Gamal, and others.

The El-Dhaher Police Station agents told the lawyers the detainees were to sleep overnight at the station, but will be referred to the State Security Prosecutor on Friday morning…

Update: It’s 4am now… The lawyers still given no information, no access to the detainees, so they are leaving and will be returning in the early morning (in few hours) to follow up on the case. We still don’t know which prosecutor office the detainees will be shipped to: el-Tagammu el-Khames, Galaa or Heliopolis.

So the wisdom of the day is basically Mubarak’s Egypt starts the era of “constitutional reforms” by detaining those opposed to the “constitutional reforms”…

تصبحو على خير

UPDATE: It’s 5:20am now… and here’s the latest update from HMLC lawyer and activist Ahamd Ragheb: There are 21 detainees at the El-Dhaher Police Station, locked up in two seperate cells. One has 12 detainees and the other has nine. More worryingly, the detainees have not been registered officially in the police station’s records, according to Ragheb. There will be lawyers waiting in front of the police station tomorrow 8am, to know where the hell exactly the detainees will be taken to, as the El-Dhaher Police Station officers would not release any information, except they “received verbal orders from State Security to keep the detainees till the morning, before they are taken to the prosecutor,” said Ragheb.

UPDATE: Ok, it’s 6:20am.. and I think I have to go to sleep, as anyways we won’t know anything except sometime after 8am. But for now, I’ll leave you with this photo I took of detained Socialist activist and friend Khaled Abdel Hamid (seen in the middle, chanting, wearing shirt with stripes) during a Kefaya rally in 2005… I hope he and the rest of the political detainees will be released soon…

Release Khaled! Release All Political Detainees!