Politicians condemn interior ministry’s use of violence in Tahrir clashes

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By Tamim Elyan

CAIRO: Political powers condemned the use of force by the interior ministry and said that clashes in Tahrir were related to the disbanding of municipal councils Tuesday.

They called for the continuation of the sit-in in Tahrir Square until their demands are met.

Protesters and police clashed on Tuesday and Wednesday. An attempt by families of the Jan. 25 Revolution martyrs to get into a martyr memorial service and a later demonstration in front of the Ministry of Interior turned into violent clashes. However, there are conflicting reports about how and why the clashes erupted and continued to Wednesday. The police was criticized for using what some analysts labeled as “excessive force.”

Many activists and politicians called for major protests this Friday, which they dubbed “Right of the Martyr Friday,” demanding swift trials for those responsible of killing protesters and ousted regime figures.

Presidential hopefuls Hamdeen Sabahi and Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh demanded the resignation of Minister of Interior Mansour El-Essawy for his inability to restore security to the street and for using force against protesters.

“There are possibilities of the presence of regime remnants who want to create deliberate clashes especially after the court ruling to disband municipal councils,” Sabahi said in a statement, “However, we hold the minister responsible for any violence against protesters.”

“It is unacceptable from the ministry to call protesters thugs because it can’t admit their presence, because that would mean that they failed to deal with them,” said Aboul Fotouh.

The interior ministry described the clashes in a statement released early Wednesday as riots, accusing the protesters of “attacking citizens and private properties.” It called upon citizens not to listen to rumors that aim at causing a rift between the people and the police.

Aboul Fotouh called for the purification of the security apparatus and the ministry from corrupt figures and prosecuting those responsible of hiring thugs.

Mohamed ElBaradei called on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to clarify facts rapidly and the reasons of using violence and the procedures necessary to end it.

“Sluggishness, opaqueness and confusion eroding credibility. Clear vision, transparency, time line and genuine participation urgently required,” the presidential hopeful and Noble laureate wrote on Twitter.

The April 6 Youth movement considered police violence “unconvincing and not understandable” and called on people in a statement to join the Tahrir Square sit-in until demands are met. The movement also called on Prime Minister Essam Sharaf to participate in the planned protests on Friday.

Demands include banning former NDP member from participating in elections, swift trials for ousted president Mubarak and other regime figures, prosecuting those responsible of killing protesters during the revolution, stopping military trials against civilians, reviewing laws that were issued without public discussion and the “purification” of ministries and governmental institutes.

The statement said that they will not leave until there are clear indicators that demands will be met.

“We call Sharaf’s government to open an investigation and to punish those responsible or resign immediately,” the statement read.

Rashad Bayoumi, deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, said there are “hired thugs” that have an agenda.

“This is a minority that follows the ousted regime and wants to hinder the progress of the country, but they don’t have any effect as wide sectors of the people have enough awareness not to allow them to jump into power,” Bayoumi said in reference to the Tahrir clashes.

“If the minister did something wrong he is held accountable for that, but we can’t change ministers whenever something wrong happens in order to maintain stability,” he added.

Ammar Ali Hassan, a political expert, offered a different account of why the clashes escalated. Police officials, he said, supported the violence as a form of revenge against El-Essawy after the minister discharged 10 of his assistants who were appointed by former minister Habib El-Adly.

“They hired thugs from Abdeen district to attack martyrs’ families who were protesting peacefully in front of the ministry,” he said.

Political parties condemned the use of power by police and demanded an investigation into the events.

“The scenarios presented by the Ministry of Interior are full of contradictions and we want to know the truth,” said Nabil Zaki, Al-Tagammu party spokesperson.

“There is an atmosphere of instability in the country as a result of not responding to social demands of the revolution and the long period of security vacuum. We want to have political clarity to achieve stability and security through drafting a new constitution, electing a president and then holding legislative elections,” he added.

Zaki called for discharging the whole ministry.

He said that the party is participating in planned protests on July 8.

Other political parties also criticized the interior ministry, but for slightly different reasoning.

“We condemn the Ministry of Interior for not arresting those thugs although we know it has their information, since they were used in forging elections by the former regime,” the Justice Party said in a statement

“There are secret hands working to create tension between protesters and police; the ministry has the right to defend its headquarters but that doesn’t give it the right to use teargas and bullets to disperse protesters,” it added.

Al-Wasat Party said that those behind the clashes want the country to fall into a “vicious circle” of exchanging accusations between the people and the regime, which hinders moving towards a civil state.

“We refuse the use of violence in face of riots no matter how opposed we are to those doing it,” the party said in a statement.

“The vast majority of those who participated in the events were from the martyrs’ families and the few numbers of thugs and National Democratic Party remnants didn’t succeed in pushing protesters toward sabotage or pseudo battles,” said the Egyptian Democratic Social Party.

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