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Egyptian Activists Attacked While Trying to Expose Secret Police Documents

Since Friday in Alexandria, Egyptian activists have been entering Security Service offices to preserve the secret files of the past 30 years from destruction. On Saturday evening in Cairo, large numbers entered the Nasr HQ, but on Sunday:

Pro-democracy activists in Egypt have been attacked by men in plain clothes, armed with knives, outside the interior ministry in Cairo, reports say….

On Sunday, men in plain clothes armed with swords and petrol bombs confronted the pro-democracy activists after soldiers dispersed a Cairo rally they were holding to demand reform of the security services, eyewitnesses say.

“The army started firing in the air to disperse us,” Mohammed Fahmy told Reuters news agency.

“We tried to run away but we were met by 200 thugs in plain clothes carrying sharp weapons.”

Mr Fahmy put the number of protesters at 2,000…

Sunday’s attack has not diminished activist’s calls for dismantling the security forces. And now some of the secrets are starting to trickle out.

From Al Masry:

Demonstrators who recently stormed the state security’s bureau found documents proving that certain judges allowed previous parliamentary elections to be rigged.

One activist told Australian TV:

PROTESTER 3: We found also plans for rigging the elections, the parliamentary elections in 2010. Exact plans telling how many votes will go to each candidate in every district in the country and how the state security and some state security agents working in the media are going to support certain candidates.

The BBC reports:

Activists who stormed the Cairo headquarters told the BBC they had found evidence of a parallel state structure that monitored all aspects of life in Egypt.

Mohammed Abdelfattah, a protester who raided the headquarters in Nasr City, said: “We found transcribed phone calls between university professors, political activists, opposition figures.”

Evidence of torture was also found, he added.

Al Jazeera adds [continued after the jump]:

Egyptians who entered the building also found computers and hard drives that had been destroyed.

And a video posted on YouTube shows the charred remains of a massive pile of documents that state security apparently set on fire in the courtyard of the building. Fires have also been reported at other state security offices in recent days.

…Some of them show surveillance of prominent Egyptians: There are transcripts of phone calls made by Mohamed ElBaradei, for example, or by Hamdi Kandil, a journalist who was a fierce critic of Mubarak’s regime. Other files documented the lives of ordinary citizens.

…It was a moment of catharsis for many of the protesters, some of which endured detention and abuse within these very buildings.

“Entering the building was a very emotional moment. I worked as a psychiatrist in the Nadim centre for the rehabilitation of victims of torture for three years, and I have heard so many stories of abuse and torture on the hands of normal police and state security,” said Mostafa Hussein, one of the protesters who stormed the 6th of October building.

Hossam al-Hamalawy, an Egyptian activist and blogger, tweeted about finding the detention centre where he was once held.

“Entered the small compound where I was locked. Man, I can’t believe it still,” he wrote. “Many are literally crying. We can’t find the interrogation rooms. This is a citadel.”

Some protesters found documents about themselves:

Some of the documents related to pro-democracy activists themselves, according to Ms. Fatah. She said her friends found a file on her and showed it to her. “It was my phone records and my messages and my email. They printed my emails,” she said.

Ms. Fatah said she has a history with Amn al Dowla. She said they arrested her twice, once for 18 days in 2008 when she tried to organize a general labor strike through Facebook, and again in 2009 for 36 hours. She said she wasn’t tortured, but could hear screams down the hallway.

Along with Sunday’s attack, Al Masry Al Youm reports that one of its journalists was beaten when he tried to photograph officials burning files:

Hurghada State Security assaulted Al-Masry Al-Youm reporter Mohamed Suleiman on Saturday while he photographed officers burning state documents on the town’s outskirts, the victim said.

Suleiman went to the location after local residents informed him they witnessed security burn thousands of files and documents there. The reporter fled, he relayed to Al-Masry Al-Youm, after four officers threatened to kill him. They proceeded to chase him and strike him on the head with a bottle, causing Suleiman to faint.

The officers then put him in a car and escorted him to a private clinic. There medical staff treated Suleiman and he regained consciousness.

Concern by Egyptian Security forces that their secrets will be exposed is probably matched by worry in Washington:

“This could be bigger than Mubarak’s fall in terms of the effect it could have on the country,” said Elijah Zarwan, a Cairo-based analyst with the International Crisis Group.

State Security also collaborated with the United States on counterterrorism and was likely to have kept files on the rendition program under which terrorism suspects from around the world were relocated to Egypt by U.S. agents, Zarwan said.

Rumors of an unplanned visit by American officials to meet with the Army over these document exposures circulated all Sunday on Twitter but the seizures by the activists may have come too late as the Washington Post continues:

But there were indications that some of the most sensitive documents might have been destroyed or removed, and most of the rest were taken away by prosecutors, witnesses said.

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Siun is a proud Old Town resident who shares her home with two cats and a Great Pyrenees. She’s worked in media relations and on the net since before the www, led the development of a corporate responsibility news service, and knows what a mult box is thanks to Nico. When not swimming in the Lake, she leads a team working on sustainability tools.

Email: media dot firedoglake at gmail dot com