Egypt closes hated internal security unit

2011-03-15 22:36

Cairo - Egypt on Tuesday dissolved an internal security and spying agency whose reputation for brutality helped ignite the uprising that swept Hosni Mubarak from power last month.

The Interior Ministry replaced state security with a new National Security Force, which would serve "the nation without interfering in the lives of citizens or their right to exercise their political rights", the state news agency reported.

The new security agency would be tasked with guarding internal security and fighting terrorism in line with the constitution and the principles of human rights.

The dissolution of state security was one of the main demands of the activists who rose up against Mubarak, forcing him to step down on February 11 and hand power to the military.

"The choosing and appointment of the officers of the new force will take place in the coming few days," the agency said.

As with the Stasi in East Germany, state security had sweeping powers, intervening in everything from university elections to public sector appointments.

Pressure for action grew after protesters stormed state security's offices across Egypt earlier this month, finding piles of shredded files, evidence of torture and documents showing the full extent of the agency's internal espionage.

Its head has been arrested and is facing investigation for ordering the killing of demonstrators during the uprising against Mubarak. Another 47 of its personnel have been detained on suspicion of destroying documents.

A spokesperson for the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist movement that had been banned by Mubarak, described the dissolution of state security as "a step in the right direction".

Activists have said the survival of state security posed a danger to the sweeping changes they hope will turn Egypt from an autocratic, oppressive state into a democracy.

Read more on:    egypt  |  egypt protests  |  north africa  |  uprisings
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