Egypt shakes up police after protests

Reuters News
|
Posted: Jul 13, 2011 11:30 AM
Egypt shakes up police after protests

By Yasmine Saleh and Marwa Awad

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt said Wednesday more than 650 senior officers would end their police service, an unprecedented shake up after protesters demanded reform of a force blamed for killing protesters who ousted Hosni Mubarak.

The announcement by the Interior Ministry follows six days of protests in Cairo and other cities that have included demands for speedier change and faster trials of those behind the deaths of more than 840 demonstrators.

Egypt's ruling military council has been increasingly targeted by protesters accusing it of failing to purge the system of Mubarak's allies or those behind police brutality.

In another apparent bid to placate critics, an army source said a parliamentary election could take place in November.

It will still start "procedures" for the election in September, as stipulated by a constitutional agenda, but pushing voting itself back will placate liberal political groups who argued a vote held in September would mainly benefit Islamists.

The army had indicated it could hold voting later but had not said when. The official state news agency, citing a security source, said the vote could happen in October or November.

The Interior Ministry statement said 505 generals and more than 160 other senior officers would end their service. It was not immediately clear if they were being fired or retiring.

"This movement (of people) is probably the biggest in the history of the police," Interior Minister Mansour el-Essawy said, adding that 18 of the generals were involved in trials over the killing of protesters.

Ministry spokesman General Marwan Mostafa said: "The police force shares with the people feelings of pain and hope. People involved in security are ... keen to do their role in protecting the revolution and look forward to a future of democracy."

Police were hated for the way they quashed even the smallest protest during Mubarak's rule and were reviled for using live ammunition, rubber bullets, batons and water cannon in the 18-day uprising that led to the president quitting on February 11.

CAMPED OUT

Activists welcomed the shake up. "This is a major step but still more procedures need to be done. Officers who had a role in torturing protesters during the revolution are still in their position," said Ahmed Maher from April Six Youth movement.

"We also need to have a real restructuring process in the military," he added.

After a mass protest Friday demanded swifter reforms, a core of demonstrators have remained camped out in tents and under canopies in the sweltering heat in Tahrir Square demanding swifter reforms and criticizing the military's rule.

In a bid to assuage public anger, Prime Minister Essam Sharaf said the cabinet would be reshuffled in a week. The government has also pledged to raise the minimum wage.

On the election timing, an army source told Reuters "procedures" for a parliamentary election would start in September with the registration of candidates.

"Then there will be a campaigning period, after which an election will be held," he said. "This could take the voting till after September, possibly November."

Hassan Nafaa, a political analyst, said the army had little room to maneuver because of the constitutional requirement to start the process by the end of September.

"But they agreed that procedures will start (in September) and it will be a little bit slow so as to respond positively to those who have asked to postpone the election, so the election itself will take place in November," he said.

Sharaf said earlier in July the election would be in late September, although in June he had said he backed a delay to allow more groups to organize.

"Having elections in November would certainly offer nascent parties more time to prepare for the election race. At least now we have more time to compete with already established groups" said Mohamed Anis, a founding member of the new Justice Party.

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's most organized group, is widely seen as best prepared to benefit from a swifter vote.

Asked about the November voting date, senior Brotherhood member Essam el-Erian said: "This was expected ... We will all get to have more time before actual voting."

(Additional reporting by Sherine El Madany; Writing by Edmund Blair)