The standoff at the Ismailia Cultural Center, which the Interior and Justice Ministries had turned into an courtroom for the trial of those accused in the Port Said Stadium violence, has been resolved after the contractors reinstalled chairs that were removed to build a court cage.
“The ministries changed the location without informing the minister of culture,” said Saad Abdel Rahman, chairman of the General Authority of Cultural Palaces. “This was an arrogant thing to do.”
The justice minister said he did not know that the culture minister was not informed beforehand.
Ismailia Governor Gamal Imbabi suggested the center for the trial instead of the educational compound on the outskirts of the city.
Intellectuals, authors, activists and politicians from the Suez Canal governorates of Ismailia, Suez and Port Said and from the Sinai had staged a sit-in at the Ismailia Cultural Center to protest the decision to hold the Port Said Stadium violence trial there.
The demonstrators had blocked the main road in front of the palace and were holding an open-ended sit-in inside the building.
Yasser al-Hefnawy, sheriff of the Ismailia police station near the palace, told officials from the Arab Contractors Company, which is in charge of preparing the palace for the trial, to stop work out of fear that the situation would escalate.
Hesham al-Souly, a Freedom and Justice Party MP for Ismailia who visited the sit-in, had said he would demand an inquiry into the issue with the culture minister and the cabinet, stressing his rejection of the decision to hold the trial at the palace and warning that it could cause unrest in Ismailia.
Souly added that he would meet with other Ismailia MPs to discuss the consequences of the decision, asking, "How could a headquarters of arts be a headquarters of prisons?"
Wafd Party MP Magda al-Nowaishy also denounced the decision, describing it as farcical.
Mona Arafa, director general of Sinai’s cultural department, totally rejected the decision and considered it an assault on the freedom of creativity and intellectuals, saying that intellectuals would not allow the palace to be turned into a court.
She added that she had not been officially notified of the decisions and that she, along with others, was surprised when contractors began working on the palace.
"It is a shameful cultural scandal," said Maher Kamal, former manager of the Ismailia Cultural Palace. "They are killing us by destroying the most important cultural castle in Egypt, after the revolution," he added, noting that he and his colleagues would not allow such a thing to take place.
Sinai-based activist Mossad Abu Fagr arrived at the palace in the morning and announced the beginning of an open-ended sit-in until the decision is canceled. "It should not be a surprise if, in the future, we find such places turned into supermarkets if this is the mentality people in power have, " he said.
"It is a shame for Egypt and its cultural history," he added.
Translated from Al-Masry Al-Youm