July 21, 2011
As protesters return to the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities to try to force an acceleration in the pace of post-revolutionary political reform, Egypt’s Interior Ministry has dismissed 669 police officers, including many senior officials, as part of an effort to reform a police force that has come to be associated with torture, extrajudicial activities and a culture of impunity.
Interior Minister Mansur al-Essawy
The July 13 announcement by recently appointed Interior Minister Mansur al-Essawy came as demonstrators continue to demand justice for the deaths of nearly 900 protesters in the January 25 popular uprising. The Minister assured viewers on state TV that 37 of the dismissed officers would face charges related to the killings (Ittihad al-Idha’ah wa’l-Tilifizyun al-Misri [Egyptian Radio and Television Union – ERTU], July 13). 
Former Finance Minister Yusuf Boutros Ghali, who reportedly has dual Egyptian-American citizenship, has apparently fled Egyptian corruption charges by fleeing to New York via the UK after the U.S. ambassador to the UK interceded repeatedly to prevent his arrest and deportation to Egypt (Youm7.com, July 18; Bikya Masr, July 18). Several other ministers have received acquittals on corruption charges, angering many Egyptians.
In the current tense environment, it takes little to spark major incidents. On July 17, a soldier of the Alexandria garrison was struck by a superior officer for refusing to go on night duty. A rumor spread quickly that the soldier had been beaten to death, followed by angry soldiers taking to the streets, burning their mattresses and vehicles before gathering to clash with their officers. Security officials defused the situation by convincing the troops that their colleague was alive and receiving medical treatment. According to the official medical report, the soldier had fainted after suffering an epileptic fit, though the officer involved was suspended pending investigation (Bikya Masr, July 18; Ahram Online, July 18).
While most eyes were focused on the events in Cairo’s Tahrir square during the late January revolution, some of the worst police violence occurred in Suez, where 29 people were killed and nearly 1,000 others injured in the early days of the uprising. Though seven police officers, including the former police directorate chief, were charged in connection with the shooting of peaceful demonstrators, their release on bail on July 4 initiated a new series of angry demonstrations in the city’s al-Arbaein square that quickly spread to Port Tawfik. With the trial adjourned until September, local residents will commence a symbolic “peoples’ trial” of the officers in al-Arbaein square. Presiding over the trial will be the deputy head of the Court of Cassation, Mahmoud al-Khodairy, a well-known critic of the Mubarak regime (Daily News Egypt, July 17).
Many police officers have never returned to work after the revolution, some fearing retribution from an angry public. Some other members of the security forces, however, appear to still have faith in the pre-revolutionary culture of immunity. On July 15, some members of the military police attempted to bypass a queue for fuel at a filling station in Qalyubiya Governorate. They were told to return to the end of the queue, but instead returned several hours later and abducted the staff, taking them to a military post where they were stripped and beaten all night (al-Masry al-Youm, July 18). Similar cases of police abuses continue to be reported across Egypt.
1. For the internal collapse of the Interior Ministry, see “Egypt’s Internal Security Service Collapses in a Storm of Charges and Revelations,” Terrorism Monitor, April 7, 2011.
This article was originally published in the July 21, 2011 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor.