CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian workers, using construction drills and cranes, began Sunday to demolish the former headquarters of ousted President Hosni Mubarak's now-defunct party, a towering structure which was torched by protesters during the 2011 uprising that ended Mubarak's rule.
The military's corps of engineers started bringing down the National Democratic Party's headquarters — a prime piece of real-estate alongside the city's central Tahrir square, adjacent to the Egyptian Museum and overlooking the Nile.
The fate of the 56-year old property — which originally housed the offices of the Cairo municipality — has been a contentious issue, with various government bodies bickering over its future. Rights groups and the family of the building's architect have campaigned to stop the demolition.
Mahmoud M. Riad, the grandson of the architect and himself an architect, said the building was registered with the government as a landmark in the mid-2000s as one of the first to blend modernist architecture with art-deco, and Arab styles.
The demolition violates the law on dealing with registered landmarks, Riad said, explaining that an earlier attempt to demolish the building was stalled.
"There are a lot of different factors that make this building an iconic one that needs to be preserved and adoptively used," said Riad, who is collecting signatures on a petition to stop the demolition. "It is one of the most studied pan-Arab modernist buildings. It started a new wave by Egyptian architects who were trying to create a new identity."
The deputy governor of Cairo told the state-owned Al-Ahram Online site that the municipality had issued the demolition permits.
For protesters, the building was a charred reminder of the revolt against Mubarak's 29-year reign. The building was set ablaze on Jan. 28, 2011, when protesters overwhelmed Mubarak's police forces and took control of Tahrir Square.
"The NDP building was one of the last remaining physical reminders of the (2011) revolution," activist Sherief Gaber tweeted. Lamenting the failure of the pro-democracy movement to take hold in Egypt, Gaber wrote: "The state is in the process of erasing even that."