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Torture and protests in Egypt

Added on February 1, 2011 at 22:51 Vienna time
President Hosni Mubarak said that he will step down at the end of his term in September 2011, but that he will not leave Egypt.

Added on January 29, 2011 at 20:18 Paris time
The former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei said in a speech this evening: “We are seeking a change of regime. President Mubarak should step down. We should head towards a democratic state through a new government and free democratic elections.” He added: “The whole world should realize that the Egyptians are not going home until their demands are realized.”

Added on January 29, 2011 at 19:06 Paris time
The newly appointed [vice-president, corrected at 23:31] Omar Suleiman (*1936) was the director of the Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate. He is a man of the military who had partly studied in Moscow. The ex-spy chief is not exactly a fresh face. The new prime minister Ahmed Shafik (*1941) is a former commander of the Egyptian Air Force. He later served as Minister of Civil Aviation. He is another old man of the old regime.

Added on January 29, 2011 at 18:11 Paris time
At 6pm Cairo time, the former aviation minister, Ahmed Shafik, has been appointed Egypt's new prime minister.

President Hosni Mubarak's two sons, Gamal and Aala, have reportedly arrived in London. The curfew continues to be defied. Looters are reported to have damaged antiquities in the world's leading Egyptian Museum of Cairo.

Added on January 29, 2011 at 14:04 Paris time

Al Jazeera reports already 95 people killed in the Egyptian riots. The official number stands at 35 dead. The Egyptian government resigned down today, January 29.

Article added on January 28, 2011 and updated on January 29, 2011 at 11:06 Paris time
Reports of 20 to 26 protesters killed in Alexandria, 13 killed in Suez, 5 killed in Cairo.

According to media reports ranging from Al Jazeera to the BBC, some 20 to 26 protesters were killed in the night of January 28 to 29, 2011. Al Jazeera reported that on the streets of Alexandria alone 20 people had died. In Suez, 13 people were killed. In Cairo, 5 people died.

Torture in Egypt
WikiLeaks cables from January 15, 2009 by the American Ambassador Margaret Scobey in Cairo show that she was aware of torture and police brutality in Egypt. The US administration tried to convince its Egyptian ally to improve the situation, but with little or no success.

When pushed by the US to open up his country, the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (*1928) referred in talks with the US embassy in Cairo to the situation of the Shah in Iran. The US had encouraged the Shah to accept reforms. The result was that Iran fell into the hands of revolutionary religious extremists, Mubarak said.

According to the cable by Margaret Scobey, poor training and understaffing caused  police brutality. Although brutality against Islamist detainees by security forces had decreased, they still resorted to torturing Muslim Brotherhood activists  who posed a political threat in their eyes.

The Muslim Brotherhood was formed by Hassan al-Banna in 1928, the year Hosni Mubarak was born. The Muslim Brotherhood is both a religious and political group. Its members believe that Islam is more than a religion. It is a way of life. Therefore, they ask for the return to the Quran for the rule of daily life as well as of all political entities. The logical consequence is to abandon secularism and to return to a religious state ruled by Islam. It is not clear how extreme the ideas of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt are. Could it become a moderate force of regime change or would it enforce a religious state such as the one in Iran?

In her cable, the US ambassador in Cairo came to the conclusion that there had been no serious efforts to
“transform the police from an instrument of regime power into a public service institution.” But she said that she wanted US-funded police training in Egypt to continue.

“Torture and police brutality in Egypt are endemic and widespread. The police use brutal methods mostly against common criminals to extract confessions, but also against demonstrators, certain political prisoners and unfortunate bystanders”, Margaret Scobey wrote to Washington. She added that, according to NGO contacts, there were “literally hundreds of torture incidents every day in Cairo police stations alone.”

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Protests in Egypt, police crackdown and web shutdown in Egypt

The 2011 protests in Tunisia have led to protests in the much more populous Egypt. In Cairo city live some eight million people, in larger Cairo some 16 million people. So far, we can report protests of over one hundred thousand people. A regime change could be around the corner. Forces challenging the regime have managed to storm the state television central.

The probability that President Mubarak can remain in power after the next presidential election, as he intended to do, have dramatically decreased. The same holds true for his plan to enthrone his son as his future successor. Both plans have been seriously hampered by the ongoing protests. The Egyptian president has ordered a curfew and called out the army, but it seems to be too late for him to save his regime.

Hosni Mubarak is heading a corrupt state. He rigged the past parliamentary election, excluding whomever he did not want to compete and hindering oppositional parties wherever he could.

For the moment, Hosni Mubarak seems decided to hold on to his power despite the protests in Cairo's streets. He seems decided to use force to stop the protests from spreading and form turning into a revolution.

Today, on January 28, 2011 his regime made sure that no SMS messages could be sent, that the use of cell phones and Blackberries was interrupted, that Twitter, Facebook, Google as well as the website of the American embassy in Cairo could not be reached. The web shutdown and censorship in Egypt today seems to be massive, almost complete.

The government insists that it is not censoring websites. Has too much traffic brought done most servers? Unlikely. Western analysts say that the Egyptian government blocked the country's Domain Name Servers (DNS) and Border Gateway Protocols (some 3500 BGP routes), shutting the country off the web. Almost all of Egypt's leading websites cannot be reached.

The Egyptian population is largely passive. Will it come to widespread protests around the country? Recently, terrorists attacked the religious minority of the Copts, who account for some 10% of the overall population. In 2008, bread riots spread in the country on the Nile. The Egyptian situation is more complex than the one in Tunisia. The outcome of the protests is unpredictable. Many Egyptians sense however that this might be the best opportunity in a long time to come to force Mubarak out of power.

In another 2009-cable, President Hosni Mubarak judged President George W. Bush as naive, controlled by subordinates and totally unprepared for dealing with post-Saddam Iraq. Maybe now it is up to Mubarak to naive and to misjudge the situation.

Is the former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammed el-Baradei (*1942), the future leader? The 2005 Nobel Peace Prize winner came under a lot of pressure when he wanted to stand up against Hosni Mubarak in the next presidential election. He backtracked. But on January 27, 2011 he flew back to Cairo to be among the protesters.

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