The Interior Ministry is unable to end a months-long a sit-in at Cairo’s Tahrir Square, fearing a negative media reaction, Assistant Minister for Cairo Security Ismail Ezz Eddin said.
Since the release of a controversial constitutional declaration by President Mohamed Morsy in November, some protesters have been holding a sit-in at the square, the heart of a popular uprising in January 2011 that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak. Morsy's declaration gave himself sweeping powers, and the president soon after pushed through a constitutional referendum over a constitution drafted mostly by Islamists.
The square has been opened and closed to traffic several times, with occasional clashes with police forces.
“We are unable to remove tents in Tahrir Square, though we are sure those inside do not represent the revolution by any means,” Ezz Eddin said during a meeting with the Shura Council National Security Committee.
He said the protesters in the square “every now and then” assault police vehicles and set them on fire, “thanks to media campaigns critical of the Interior Ministry and the support they gain from some political groups.”
Ezz Eddin said police forces faced with fierce assaults from these “thugs” after they launched three raids to reopen the square to traffic.
He said that during one raid, protesters attacked a police lieutenant with sticks and pen knives, and tried to steal his weapon. He said prosecutors later released the alleged assailants even though a medical report had proven the officer’s injuries.
Ezz Eddin said 73 police officers and nine civilians have been injured at Tahrir Square over the recent period. He said three civilians were killed when “thugs” assaulted police with birdshot.
Fourteen police vehicles, 18 private cars, and three public and private facilities have been torched, he said.
Essam al-Erian, deputy chairperson of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, called upon police to eliminate “thuggery” in Tahrir.
“What is the Interior Ministry waiting for to end continuous thuggery at Tahrir Square?” Erian asked at the meeting. “The prime minister directed the ministry to confront criminal actions after making two consecutive visits to the square.”
He told the assistant minister that laws in place empower the ministry to take action to regain its prestige.
Edited translation from MENA