Police arrested 10 Warraq Island residents, demolished 30 buildings on Sunday

Police forces arrested 10 Warraq Island residents on Sunday in connection to clashes that took place earlier the same day when security forces attempted to implement 700 demolition orders for buildings that “encroach on state lands,” according to an Interior Ministry statement.

Thirty demolition orders were carried out yesterday, with the Giza Governorate asserting on Monday that citizens had not been forcibly removed residents from their property in the process.

North Giza Prosecution informed lawyers that the 10 residents arrested yesterday are being held in Central Giza Prison. Amr Barakat, the head prosecutor, visited the prison to interrogate the detainees, but lawyers were denied access to the facility. Officials at the prison continue to deny that those arrested are being held there, according to Ahmed Osman, a lawyer from the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE).

Osman told Mada Masr earlier on Monday that a team from the Front to Defend Egyptian Protesters was unable to locate the whereabouts of individuals who had been arrested during clashes between security forces and residents protesting the implementation of the demolition orders.

Osman added that lawyers visited the Giza Security Directorate on Sunday upon being informed that detainees were being held at the Imbaba Police Station. Officials from the police station, however, denied detaining any of the 10 people arrested, directing lawyers to the Warraq and Shubra al-Kheima police stations.

Lawyers subsequently asked the families of those arrested to file reports with the prosecutor general stating that their relatives had been forcibly disappeared, according to Osman.

North Giza Prosecution initiated investigations into the events surrounding the implementation of demolition orders that took place in Warraq, privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper reported on Monday, adding that the prosecution has solicited testimonies from injured officers and members of the police.

Police forces fired tear gas and birdshot at protesters during the clashes, killing one person and injuring at least 19 others, according to a statement issued by the Health Ministry. The Interior Ministry reported that 37 police personnel were injured in the melee.

According to Mahmoud, a resident of Warraq, the ferries that transport residents to Cairo’s mainland stopped early Monday morning. He told Mada Masr that only one out of the five ferries resumed activity on Monday afternoon, adding that police forces are stationed on the Nile River bank at the entrance to Shubra al-Kheima.

During the hours in which the ferries were not working, residents could not enter or exit the island. “Residents who work night shifts were unable to return home, while others could not transport those injured to hospitals nearby,” Mahmoud said.

In a statement issued Monday, Giza Governor Kamal al-Daly confirmed that police forces carried out 30 out of the 700 demolition orders on Sunday. “Inhabited properties were not approached, even though some are built on state lands. Tenants were not forced out of their apartments and agricultural land was not touched,” Daly wrote.

The statement adds that the governor will hold meetings with Warraq residents to “correct misconceptions that the campaign is meant to the evacuate the island of residents, which is completely untrue.” He pointed out that all those who have owned agricultural land for a period of time have the right to legalize their situation, as well as those who own the property on which they’re residing.

General Alaa al-Harras, deputy governor of Giza for neighborhood affairs, was cited in the privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper on Monday as saying that the ferries will be in service again after consultation with the Giza Security Directorate. “No demolition orders will be implemented today,”Harras stated, adding that there is no intention on the part of security forces to enter the island on Monday.

“The state will continue to demolish properties found to be in violation [of ordinances] and will not cease with the demolitions until the file is closed completely,” Cabinet spokesperson Ashraf Sultan stated yesterday in an appearance on the television show Raye Aam (Public Opinion). “Some residents of the islands have built properties on lands belonging to the state, and some have unlawfully gained possession of agricultural land. There are also encroachments on the Nile River, and there is a strong political will to reclaim these lands.”

In a statement issued on Sunday, the Cabinet asserted, “The state has great interest in this issue and deals with it from a national perspective that does accept complacency with these irresponsible practices, which constitute a flagrant violation of the rights of citizens and future generations.”

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi asked the government in May to urgently reclaim state-owned lands that have been illegally seized. “There’s an island in the middle of the Nile that stretches over 1,250 feddans. Havoc has spread in it, and people have been building on land that they seized. And now there’s 50,000 houses there. Where does their sewage go? It goes into the Nile water that we drink. We can’t allow that and hurt ourselves,” Sisi said in a speech last month, mentioning Warraq Island specifically.

In the conference on land reclamation held in June at which Sisi delivered that speech, the government announced that it had retrieved 118 million square meters of state land in a few weeks, an area constituting 69 percent of total land seized since the establishment of the State Land and Assets Reclamation Committee in 2016, which is headed by former Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb.

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