Monday’s papers: Underground cells and ministerial changes

Cairo has been buzzing with constant, daily change since the revolution. Monday’s papers report two major manifestations of this change. The papers are still preoccupied with the breaching of state security headquarters in Nasr City by protesters, which signaled a seismic shift for the apparatus that has kept Egyptians in the grip of a bona-fide police state for so long. Also widely covered is yesterday's announcement of a new cabinet with six major ministerial changes by the new, popular Prime Minister Essam Sharaf.

The peculiar ease and speed with which protesters were able to enter previously heavily fortified state security offices left many dumbfounded. Al-Wafd headlines with “State security conspiracy. They say that the storming of state security headquarters in seven governorates at the same time in the same way raises eyebrows." The paper says it is reminiscent of Cairo's great fire 60 years ago, “when fires sprung up in ten different parts of Cairo to divert people’s attention from the country's situation.” This conspiracy theory also stems from the fact that the protesters for the most part barged into emptied out headquarters. Al-Wafd reported on orders to burn, shred and smuggle out most sensitive documents.

Many documents left behind were personal files on public figures meant to damage their reputations.

Independent Al-Shorouk toured the Nasr City headquarters, and says it found underground cells that look like torture chambers. The paper also reports an unnamed state security official who claims that the dreaded apparatus will remain functional, and possibilities of renaming it or giving it a different form are being considered.

Al-Dostour claims that Obama is sending Defense Secretary Robert Gates on an emergency mission to Cairo to try to contain any files that might be leaked from state security regarding American anti-terrorism strategy and tactics in the region. Documents may also reveal who the apparatus was keeping tabs on, as the terrible tactics it employed to maintain surveillance on most of those with a public or political profile in Egypt have already been revealed. 

State-run Al-Ahram took a more positive approach initially, calling the last few days “The Fall of the ‘State’… State Security.” They take coverage a step further by discussing the content of some recovered state-security documents on the front page, but it does mention that state security attempted to destroy incriminating documents as well. The raid revealed many torture devices used by state security in their devilish sadism and criminal unaccountability. Someone needs to get charged for crimes against humanity, soon.

Sharaf’s new transitional cabinet is set to take oaths of office today. Key appointments include Nabil Alaraby as foreign minister, Mansour al-Essawy as interior minister, and Mohamed Abdelaziz al-Gindy as minister of justice. Other changes include the labor force and immigration ministry, as well culture and antiquities. Al-Shorouk reports that at least two candidates declined the position of oil minister, so the position remains unfilled for now. 

Sharaf also makes headlines in Al-Ahram by going down to the street outside the cabinet offices to listen to people's problems first-hand and request their patience. He spoke directly to a group of disabled protesters requesting rights they have not been given for many years now. State-run Al-Akhbar reports that after listening to their problems and promising to work on them, Sharaf convinced them to end the sit-in. 

Al-Akhbar releases the ministerial list with the seven changes (including the unoccupied oil ministry) and the 19 ministers still in place. Sharaf is set to address the nation after the new ministers take oath.

The never-ending corruption cases also dominate the inside pages of many papers. Al-Dostour says that ex-president Hosni Mubarak altered laws to allow “foreigners and Arab princes” to own land in Egypt. New cases have emerged against former Culture Minister Farouk Hosny and former Head of Antiquities Zahi Hawass for allegedly gifting former first lady Suzanne Thabet “royal jewels” that belonged to the 20th century Egyptian Princess Samiha at the opening of an exhibition of the jewels. Al-Dostour also reports on requests for Interpol to facilitate the extradition of former Finance and Trade Ministers Yousef Boutros Ghali and Rachid Mohamed Rachid respectively, since they are both in violation of subpoenas issued by the Egyptian attorney general at the moment.

The former agricultural minister is at the center of the most high-profile corruption case yesterday. He is being investigated for gifting 6465 acres of land earmarked for graduate projects to 160 “high-ranking” officials, according to Al-Dostour and Al-Akhbar.

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