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Tuesday, September 27, 2011     GET REAL

Egyptian police refuse to fight crime, still get paid

CAIRO — More than seven months after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, police have refused to return to full operations in Egypt.


Opposition sources said the new military regime in Cairo has either failed to or refrained from imposing control over the nation's huge police force. They said the Interior Ministry has continued paying tens of thousands of police commanders and officers despite their refusal to battle crime or counter ethnic tension.

"Those steering the helm of the country tend to keep the basic policy of the ousted president regime and be complacent about introducing cosmetic changes," a coalition of 22 Egyptian opposition groups said on Sept. 20.

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The sources said the ministry has reorganized police in such major cities as Cairo and Alexandria. But they said in many other towns and cities police have been largely absent and remained confined to their stations.

The result has been a sharp increase in violent crime. The Interior Ministry said incidents of armed robbery reached 420 in July, up from 36 in January. Murders in July reached 166, up from 44 in January.

"There has clearly been a hands-off approach that appears very suspicious," an opposition source said.

The military regime has replaced some senior police commanders, but left mid-level officers in their positions. Interior Minister Mansour Issawi fired 700 senior officers, including those from the feared State Security Agency, and established the National Security Authority.

But opposition sources said Issawi's measures were insignificant. They said most of the dismissed officers had been close to retirement while the ministry refused to investigate thousands of others accused of abusing civilians. So far, 140 officers have been prosecuted for allegedly killing civilians during the 18-day revolt against Mubarak in January and February.

"People who were shot dead while trying to storm police stations are counted as 'martyrs' just like the protesters killed in cold blood," Issawi said.

In many cases, police officers were believed to have joined with criminal gangs to intimidate entire towns. The sources said the alliance has ensured that corrupt officers share revenues from such crime as theft, armed robberies and abductions.

"The policy of the [ruling] Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and the government, reinforces the belief that there is a wide gap between the Egyptian yearning for democracy and eradicating the vestiges of the former autocratic regime," the opposition coalition said.

The sources said police were also working with major employers to prevent labor unrest at their factories. In some cases, they said, police were hired to attack and torture union organizers.

"The police want revenge against the people and want to profit from their weapons and authority," the source said. "Right now, there is nobody, even the military, that wants to stop this."

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