Egypts secret police fearful of showing up for work

Cairo: Egypt`s notorious secret policemen are not showing up for work, almost a month after a people`s uprising toppled longtime President Hosni Mubarak.

"The bulk of the members of the State Security Investigations (SSI) are not turning up", the country`s new Interior Minister Mansur al-Issawi told reporters as he announced that private telephones would no longer be tapped in the country.

The SSI was a part of the Interior Ministry that monitored political dissent and has long been accused of corruption and torture.

The agency faced the people`s ire during the recent riots and buildings housing its offices have been attacked in the port city of Alexandria as well as the capital Cairo.

The agency is probably the most hated in Egypt and the main demand of the people who led the uprising has been disbanding of the organisation.

Former interior minister Habib al-Adly became the most hated and feared figure in Egypt`s toppled regime of Hosni Mubarak and was put on trial last week on money laundering charges.

Al-Adly was arrested last month as part of sweeping corruption investigations launched by the new military regime.

He is charged along with several other former ministers of the Mubarak era, Al-Jazeera reported.

Conceding to some of the demands of the people, Issawi while saying that SSI was not being dissolved said its role would be limited fighting terrorism and political crimes such as espionage.

The new Minister told the official news agency MENA "the era of tapping private telephones is over. There will be no phone tapping except with the prior permission of the prosecutor general according to the law."

The new Interior Minister also announced that a secret police would no longer be allowed to intervene in Universities and educational institutions.

He said nor would SSI be allowed to choose the Imams of mosques or control arms licences, indicating the extent of power wielded by the agency under the old regime.

The curbs on the secret police come as Egypt has been hit by lawlessness following the uprising and the new Cabinet has warned of a "counter revolution by diehards of old regime.