The Egyptian government is currently studying the possibility of using private security firms for domestic policing, Justice Minister Ahmed Mekki said at a Tuesday press conference at which he also discussed the controversial case of slain activist Mohamed El-Gendy.
“There is a proposition to legalise the status of private security companies to combat the ongoing security vacuum,” Mekki said. “The state is also seeking draft legislation aimed at restricting the activities of outlaws and armed groups, in addition to a law to oversee the funds and expenditures of private [political] organisations.”
Mekki’s statements came after the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) announced that it was mulling draft legislation aimed at allowing the state to employ private security firms for domestic policing. The move comes amid an ongoing strike by large numbers of Egyptian police officers.
At the same press conference, convened in Egypt’s Gharbiya governorate in the Nile Delta, Mekki also referred to earlier controversial statements he made about slain activist Mohamed El-Gendy. While forensic officials had initially attributed El-Gendy’s death to an automobile accident, many observers believe the activist was tortured to death by police following his arrest early last month.
“The interior minister has informed me that the initial forensic report about El-Gendy’s death had shown that he was killed in a car accident,” Mekki said. “The interior minister also requested that this information be announced by the prosecution, but I have decided to announce it myself.”
“Nevertheless,” the minister added, “the final [forensic] report will provide the last word.”
Mekki added that President Mohamed Morsi “is closely following the Mohamed El-Gendy case.”
The 28-year-old activist died on 4 February after having been arrested during the clashes between police and anti-government protesters that marked the second anniversary of Egypt’s 25 January 2011 uprising.
Mekki later came under fire after stating that a forensic report prepared by his ministry had attributed El-Gendy’s death to a car crash rather than police torture. Two weeks after Mekki’s statement, however, a forensics committee – drawn up by prosecutors – attributed the activist’s death to torture.
Shortly before Tuesday’s press conference, hundreds of protesters in Gharbiya surrounded the minister, expressing anger over the latter’s policies and demanding that El-Gendy’s killers be held to account.
Egyptian Prosecutor-General Talaat Ibrahim, for his part, has drawn up a committee to look into the activist’s death. The seven-member committee has yet to release its findings.
Mekki was appointed justice minister by President Morsi last August. He had formerly served as vice-president of Egypt’s Court of Cassation, the country’s highest appeal court.