Leitenant Colonel Yossr Abdel Hadi: I stand with Tahrir

My interview with Leitenant Colonel Yossr Abdel Hadi, (@YossrHadi), published today at Al Akhbar English:

After a career in a deeply corrupt organisation, Police Officer Yossr Abdel Hadi says that it is still possible for his institution to be purged of corruption and transformed into force that serves the people rather than harries and robs them.

Having graduated from the academy in 1990, Yossr Abdel Hadi was placed in the special forces. The first cases he worked were drug related, but by 1991 his unit was focused on violent Islamist groups, strengthened by experience and equipment brought back by jihadis returning from Afghanistan where they had been fighting the Soviet occupation. He described how his unit would be sent after targets named by the State Security Investigations Service.

Sometimes, he says, their mission was to capture, sometimes to kill. He describes a mission where he says his unit killed one such target in his sleep, walked up 13 flights of stairs so their target wouldn’t hear the lift. This, he felt comfortable with, saying “we found a Magnum and a machine-gun under his pillow. And if we didn’t kill him in his sleep he could have killed us all.”

He was bothered, however, when in 1992, the then interior minister, Abdel Halim Moussa, gave orders Abdel Hadi says resulted in many targets who could have been safely arrested being killed on the spot instead.

He was also alarmed by the way the net of suspects was constantly widened. His unit would be sent to raid addresses on flimsy intelligence, “they would sometimes send us to the wrong apartment, wrong floor, wrong building, or even the wrong street.”

Mass arrests also became common. “One time I had a prisoners truck with about 30 people inside”, he says, then recounted sitting in the back, and having one man whose sincerity he could “touch” tell him that he had been arrested for nothing more than growing a beard and praying.

Another memory that sticks with him is raiding the home of a college student, suspected of links to Islamists…

Read the rest here on Al Akhbar.

About Austin G. Mackell

I am a freelance journalist who has worked for a variety of corporate and community outlets from my hometown of Sydney and from the Middle East, including from Lebanon during Israels 2006 invasion and from Iran during the tumultuous presidential elections there in 2009. I have recently moved to Cairo to watch the revolutions in Arab world unfold.
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