Sunday 7 August 2011

"Red Mercury Thieves" Worked for the Security Service?

Al Masry Al Youm has a summary of what today's newspapers are saying in Egypt: Lina Attalah, 'Sunday’s papers: A nation trapped between past and future', 7th August 2011. One piece of information is of interest in the context of the museum looting (see my previous post on the Al-Adly trial last week):
Privately owned daily Youm7 runs what it calls exclusive transcripts of former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly’s interrogations. Those transcripts show that all the events of the revolution, from its start on 25 January, were recorded through video cameras placed at the Egyptian Museum and the Mugamma, the city’s administrative hub in Tahrir Square. The transcripts include a testimonial by Tarek al-Awady, the museum’s director, in which he said that the National Security apparatus took charge of the surveillance rooms in the museum during the revolution, and activated direct communication lines between the museum and the central command room of the security apparatus.
I have not seen the original, which might indicate on what day the takeover happened, but since the security apparatus was withdrawn from the city in the evening of 28th January, does this mean that the establishment of this direct communication line was some time before that? If so, this would explain a number of things (like if the museum was under the direct control of the state security services on 28th it would go some way to explaining why only three of the Museum's own guards are reported to have been on duty). It would also explain why, when I visited the museum several weeks later, its external cameras were inexplicably pointing outside the Museum grounds, and not overseeing the area directly around the Museum. [Here I would also like to ask whether the cameras can be directed remotely, or whether somebody had to go up onto the roof of the building to realign them manually, and whether any extra cable was necessary on the roof for this establishment of a watch over the square below].

It also raises questions. If the museum security room was staffed by the Security Forces, what was Tarek El-Awady doing there with them on 28th January? We remember the story of how the men locked themselves in this room and El-Awady had the idea of turning off the lights, so the vandals could not see what they were doing.

More to the point, we now learn that there were SS (State Security) personnel in the museum on 28th who had arrived there only two, three at the most, days earlier. They were not museum staff but answered to somebody else. It seems a fair guess that these could have been the men who - on orders from a superior, or on learning that the Minister had been dismissed on their own initiative - came up the stairs in the southeast corner of the Museum that night and rampaged around, took some stuff and made off into the night with it before the army came. Is this what happened? The account of what Tarek El-Awady testified in court makes no mention of that aspect of the case. Why not?


Larry Rothfield said...

You are right that this is very important new information that raises a whole host of additional questions, while also explaining some previous anomalies. It also makes the Cairo Museum case look even less like the Iraq Museum looting than it did before. There, the museum was abandoned by security police; here, it was taken over by them.

Paul Barford said...

If this is true, it does indeed raise a LOT of additional questions.

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