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Dozens turn out for Salafist demo marking fall of State Security

Salafist protesters demand release of blind sheikh, accuse military council of caving to US pressure in recent NGO showdown

Nada Hussein Rashwan, Monday 5 Mar 2012
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Salafist Front demonstration in front of Cabinet headquarters Monday (Photo: Mai Shaheen)
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The Salafist Front, a loose grouping of Egyptian Salafist associations, organised a demonstration on Monday in front of Egypt's parliament building in downtown Cairo to mark the first anniversary of the day popularly known as the "fall of State Security."

On that day one year ago, thousands of Egyptian protesters stormed the offices of the notorious State Security apparatus in cities countrywide shortly after last year's popular uprising against the Mubarak regime.

Only dozens of protesters, however, turned out for Monday's protest, the venue of which was changed at the last minute to the street outside Egypt's cabinet building.

Protesters demanded the release of Salafist sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman – currently serving a life sentence in the US for his alleged role in the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing in New York City – and the repatriation to Egypt of Salafist personality Wagdi Ghoneim.

Demonstrators also chanted against Egypt's ruling military council, which they accused of "caving in to American pressure" in reference to the departure last Thursday of a handful of foreign NGO workers indicted in Egypt for engaging in unauthorised activity.  

"The US exerted pressure to protect its citizens implicated in the NGO case," said Salafist protester Mahmoud Sayed. "Why haven't the Egyptian authorities likewise exerted pressure for the release of Egyptian prisoners abroad?"

"Down, down with military rule," demonstrators shouted as they faced ranks of Central Security Forces deployed to protect the cabinet building.

Salafist Front members held signs aloft reading, "We demand the dismantlement of the National Security Agency." Last March, shortly after Mubarak's ouster, Egypt's State Security apparatus – best known for its unstated role in crushing political dissent – was officially replaced by the new "National Security Agency."

"The National Security Agency is only State Security by a different name," Mohamed Hussein, a member of the Salafist Front's political committee, told Ahram Online. "They have the same officers, the same leadership and the same operational methods."

Hussein's opinion is shared by many revolutionary activists, who have decried the military council's apparent unwillingness to subject the national security apparatus to a radical overhaul – one of the chief demands of last year's revolution.

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