Hunger striking protesters attacked by police in Suez

Suez protesters who had been on a hunger strike in front of the governorate’s building were attacked by police in the early hours at the town’s police station on Tuesday, witnesses told Al-Masry Al-Youm.

The incident began when one of the protesters fainted at the sit-in and was taken to Suez General Hospital. An officer from the hospital’s police office had come to write a report on what had happened to the protester. According to one of the protesters, Mohamed al-Temsah, the officer verbally insulted the group and said that the unconscious protester would not be treated.

A verbal altercation ensued and Temsah contacted the governor of Suez, who told the group to come to the governorate building. There, he asked them to find out the name of the policeman. As the protesters walked back to the hospital to inquire as to the officer’s name, they found themselves beign followed by two military policemen and a man claiming to be a military officer, but later turned out to be a policeman as well. The three approached the group and told them that the officer at the hospital was upset and that they should try and make amends with him.

Then, according to Temsah, seven police officers showed up and took the group to the Suez police station, demanding recompense for their colleague.

“We were attacked in front of the police station by policemen and plainclothes officers. We were then pushed inside the station, where 30 thugs were waiting and proceeded to beat us. The military was stationed outside the station and did not intervene,” he said.

Temsah managed to flee and tried to call the governor, but was caught and had his phone and watch seized. Others also had their phones taken and some were burnt with cigarettes.

“They lined us up against the wall and one pulled out his pistol and cocked it. They threatened to kill us and that they would sexually assault us,” he remembered.

They were then locked up inside one of the cells and continued to be insulted, with policemen telling them, “You residents of Suez were talking about Mubarak and the police; we’ll show you.”

The protesters were eventually let out after the governor called the chief of the station. But even then they emerged with great difficulty, as those present did not want them to leave.

“It’s the lower-ranking policemen who cause all the trouble and commit these acts of violence,” Temsah said. “I will file lawsuits against them and I have witnesses to testify on my behalf about what happened.”

Al-Arbaeen Square is the main site of the sit-in in Suez, which is running in tandem with protests in Cairo and other cities and governorates. However, demonstrations are also taking place outside the governorate building and near the Suez Canal. The protests have called for the fulfillment of the revolution’s demands that the demonstrators feel have not yet been met.

The attack is especially sensitive as it took place in Suez, where police officers on trial for killing protesters were recently released on bail, leading to heightened protests in the city and further clashes with the police.

Abdel Rahman Mahfouz, a member of the Popular Committee for the Defense of the Revolution in Suez, told Al-Masry Al-Youm on Wednesday, “Until the stated demands are met, the sit-in will continue.”

This statement was echoed by his colleague Essam al-Masry, who said, “Nothing has been achieved up until now and we don’t know how those police officers were released.”

The Arbaeen Square sit-in took a new turn on Wednesday, when ambulance workers from Suez joined the sit-in over demands for better treatment and pay. A number of medics, assistant-medics and ambulance drivers congregated at the square, decrying the disparity in pay between them and that many of them had yet to be hired on permanent contracts.

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