tuque /tūk/ n Canadian English, var. toque [19th c. Canadian French, from the French toque, from the Basque tauka] 1 A close-fitting knitted cap, often with a long tapering end or tassel or pompom. 2 fig Something quintessentially Canadian.
souq /sūk/ n from the Arabic سوق var. souk 1 An open-air marketplace. 2 fig A central meeting place for the circulation of news and ideas.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Egyptian secret police take blogger on joyride

When Egyptian activist and blogger Philip Rizk went to a demonstration to protest the Gaza war, he had no idea that the Egyptian mukhabarat - secret police - were planning to give him a 4-day vacation in jail.

He certainly didn't have a clue that he'd be treated to a high-speed getaway on his way to his incarceration.

But that's what happened. According to a posting on the blog of one of Philip's friends who witnessed these events, the mukhabarat took Philip and his lawyers into a local police station--after he was arrested at the demonstration--while his friends were asked to wait outside. Then:
All hell broke out at 11 p.m. The lawyers rang down to say that Philip had been kidnapped: state security officers had told him that they wanted him for questioning without the lawyers in a room next door. They took him downstairs and put him in a Suzuki microbus which, when it appeared at the police station's exit, we attempted to prevent moving by blocking its path. It forced its way through while state security officers frenziedly threw us out of the way.

Moftases meanwhile had started his car. Droubi and I got in it, Moftases put his foot down and the police attempted to stop us moving by standing in front of it. Moftases drove anyway.

There then followed a car chase, Moftases establishing that if he ever tires of Psychiatry he should consider a second career as a rally-driver. The microbus – whose rear number plate had been obscured by a piece of cloth – moved at great speed through the busy main street before suddenly veering off into a neighbourhood of narrow alleys where it attempted to lose us. They hadn't reckoned on Moftases.

Philip was sitting at the back of the microbus, with roughly four or five men including the driver in front. At one point he turned around, saw us, and smiled. I hope we provided some comfort, however fleeting.

This – extreme speed, dangerous overtaking, sharp turns - went on for about 45 minutes. I don't mean to make it sound exciting. It wasn't. It was sickeningly absurd and unglamorous (a Suzuki microbus for God's sake), frightening, dangerous, and I needed the toilet throughout.

After about half an hour it turned around and went back the way it came. Playing with us, we thought.

It turned out that they had been waiting for a police general who had been at the police station to get himself and his assistants to a police checkpoint building where they extended barriers across the road. We were done for: the microbus – and Philip – disappeared into the night.
Philip was held in jail, blindfolded, without charge for more than 4 days before he was quietly released. He says he was not tortured, only interrogated repeatedly. He was accused of being both a Hamas spy and an Israeli spy.

While he was in detention, the mukhabarat broke into his home and seized his personal documents, cameras, computers, even the passwords to his blog and email accounts.

He denies enjoying the high-speed chase.

There are more than 18,000 political prisoners in Egypt, including many young activists/bloggers. One is Dia Eddin Gad, who was also swept away by the mukhabarat while protesting the assault on Gaza. His whereabouts are unknown. His blog - Sawt ghadeb ("Angry Voice") - has not been updated since before he was kidnapped.

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