By Sarah Carr
CAIRO: What started as a small demonstration of around 80 at 4 pm in front of Nasr City’s State Security headquarters on Saturday grew steadily as onlookers joined protesters, who were eventually able to make their way inside.
By nighttime, hundreds of protesters — around 2,500 according to the state news agency — made their way inside the building, seizing documents to keep them from being destroyed to hide evidence of human rights abuses.
Protesters have been demanding that the agency be dismantled and its leaders brought to trial.
Earlier in the day, protesters were outside chanting “down with State Security Investigations” and holding up placards reading “Egypt is free without State Security.”
Military police soldiers and officers stood guard outside the fortress-like building, the main headquarters of Egypt’s feared security apparatus and notorious for the illegal detention and torture activists taken there were subjected to.
Shortly before 6 pm, army officers began negotiating with protesters, encouraging them to break up the protest. Protesters refused, saying that they would not leave until a delegation had entered the building and checked it for detainees.
Protesters were also concerned that State Security officers were destroying incriminating documents inside. On Thursday protesters who entered a State Security building in Alexandria found heaps of shredded paper.
An army general told them that the building was empty, but protesters insisted that they would not leave until they had seen for themselves. The general defended his decision by telling protesters that his job is to protect both the building and demonstrators themselves and that he “does not have the authority to allow them to enter the building.”
But enter the building they did. It is unclear who opened the gate that provided access but roughly an hour later protesters were streaming through it watched by army soldiers.
Once inside demonstrators immediately began knocking down locked doors and searching for entrances to underground cells. Some were adamant that they could hear the sound of knocking coming from the basement, although when the entrance to them was eventually located the cells were found empty.
Some demonstrators pointed to the 1×3 meters cells in which they were held for days — or years.
The ground floor of one of the buildings in the complex consisted of a “Crises Management Room” and corridors of smaller rooms mostly filled with files. Protesters seized these files searching for evidence. On other floors protesters found the suite of former interior minister Habib El-Adly, a lavish three-room affair comprising, office, bedroom and meeting room.
Elsewhere protesters discovered a storeroom filled from floor to ceiling with files on Egyptian citizens and groups deemed a threat to national security. Only hours after the building had been entered people were reporting on the internet that they had found files on Ayman Nour, Mohamed ElBaradei and other political figures as well as media personalities.
In the courtyard of the building one man demonstrated how he was tortured on a metal device found inside.
Mohammed Abdel-Fattah, one of the protesters who barged into the Nasr City compound on Saturday, told AFP in a telephone interview. “We are fetching documents and we are looking for detainees.”
Cries of “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great,” could be heard in the background, as one of the protesters found a file with Mubarak’s name on it, AFP reported.
Protesters found one man on the building’s upper floors who they alleged was a State Security officer. He was rescued by military police and placed in an armored personnel vehicle.
At around 9 pm, former head of the Judges’ Club Zakaria Abdel-Aziz told protesters to leave. “You are ruining the revolution,” he said.
Along with members of the prosecution office, he started choosing 20 men randomly from the crowd to stay and protect the documents piled inside and outside the complex buildings.
Outside the premises, hundreds celebrated the fall of the notorious security apparatus, chanting against it.
Mahmoud Salem, a blogger and one of the protesters at the Nasr City headquarters, called the storming Saturday Egypt’s “Bastille Day,” AFP reported.
Other demonstrations were reported around SS buildings across Egypt. About 30 marched to the downtown building near the Ministry of Interior headquarters later that night.
Other demonstrations were reported around state security buildings across Egypt.
About 30 marched to the downtown building near the Ministry of Interior headquarters later that night. After negotiations with the army cordoning the area — telling soldiers that more demonstrators from Nasr City would be on their way to downtown — five were allowed inside the army cordon but not the building.
They wanted to guard documents until prosecutors arrived on the scene.
On Sunday, protesters gathered around State Security headquarters in Lazoghly however the army only allowed 10 people to enter.
The group that entered said they only found shredded paper, empty dungeons and locked offices, causing the remaining protesters to demand they be allowed in.
Minor clashes erupted when around five thugs arrived on the scene carrying knives. Protesters retaliated with stones sending them away while the army stood idle. –Additional reporting by Sarah El Sirgany, Essam Fadl and Tamim Elyan.
Underground cells were as wide as the door and extending to three meters in length. (Photo by Sarah El Sirgany)