Two interesting developments from Egypt over the weekend. First, the prime minister pro temp. has appointed a new cabinet, purging all those with connections and associations with Hosni Mubarak. So, essentially, we have a second interim government as we await for more news about how the final elections will go down.
And, demonstrators clashed with plainclothes police officers once again. But this time, the police officers may well have been protecting themselves. Demonstrators were ignited by rumors that Egyptian security forces were burning documents relating to their actions under Mubarak, and the demonstrators stormed security headquarters, stole the documents, and have posted many of them on Facebook. There are many amusing revelations:
The military government reacted sharply to the sacking of the secret police headquarters, issuing a statement demanding that citizens return the purloined files and refrain from publishing and circulating them.
But the documents posted on the Internet, whose authenticity could not be immediately confirmed, created a sensation.
Packaged like WikiLeaks, but under the banner “State Security Leaks,” many of the documents were burned around the edges, suggesting that reports of document burning may have been accurate.
Some were embarrassing for public figures, suggesting, for example, that a famous newspaper editor had bought a heavily discounted mansion from a corrupt politician later convicted of murder.
Others revealed efforts by state security to rein in a popular television host, Mona el-Shazly, and to defame Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency who became an opposition leader.
The file on Ms. Shazly, the most influential late-night television host in Egypt, accused her of harboring the socialist sympathies that had landed her father in jail and “made her adopt an incendiary approach in discussing issues related to the Ministry of the Interior.”
The report called her talk show “imbalanced” and said that she had to be warned by state security that she “has gone beyond her limits.”
Ms. Shazly reacted with outrage and demanded an investigation into the files. “This way of dealing with citizens was enough to destroy not only the state security service, but also the state itself,” she said on her show on Sunday.
The file on Mr. ElBaradei, who was considered a possible presidential candidate, noted an e-mail “from somebody named Wael Ghonim (being investigated now)” offering to set up a Web site for him. As is well known now, Mr. Ghonim was the Google executive behind some of the main Internet activity that led to the government’s fall. He was arrested and then released during the 18-day rebellion.
The new cabinet nominated by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf includes Nabil Elaraby, a respected former United Nations ambassador and former judge on the International Court of Justice in The Hague, who will be foreign minister. He replaces Ahmed Aboul Gheit, who had held the post since 2004 and was widely disliked by the Tahrir Square protesters after he reportedly described them as “thugs” in a cabinet meeting.