An Egyptian minister has been exposed encouraging the country's police force to use "automatic weapons" against protesters in a recording broadcasted by the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera news network on Tuesday.
According to reports, a voice attributed to Egyptian interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim is heard speaking at a meeting of Egypt's Central Security Force ahead of a major protest on November 28, 2014, during which hundreds of activists were arrested. In the recording, he calls for "decisiveness in confronting" protesters.
"Do not hesitate to use what the law has allowed you," he said. "The law allows us [action] starting from water to automatic [weapons]. Deal gradually [with the protesters] according to the law," he said.
Ibrahim continues: "I hope you do not give them the chance to rally in the first place, even if you have to deal with them at the mosque. This is a national security issue."
The alleged leak comes amid an ongoing and brutal crackdown on dissent on the part of the Egyptian government, including the detainment and ongoing trial of three Al Jazeera journalists. Two of the men, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, remain in Egypt but were recently released on bail while the third, Peter Greste, was deported to Australia earlier this month.
Reporting on the broadcast, Egyptian news outlet Ahram Online writes:
[Ibrahim] instructed policemen not to allow crowds to grow beyond their control, saying they should be quickly dispersed when they started to gather.
He also advised members of the security forces to cover their faces when they are out to arrest prominent opposition figures in order to avoid their identity being revealed and them becoming a target.
Al Jazeera's senior political analyst Marwan Bishara said the recording highlights the central role of the military in dealing with protests following the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak. "It shows how confident, comfortable and complicit the military is in the sort of chaos going on in the country today," he said.