New accusations of deliberate food poisoning at an anti-government demonstration reflect continued mistrust of the military, which saw its approval rating plummet from 90 percent last July to 43 percent in late November, despite assurances by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) that it will transfer power back to civilians after a presidential election no later than July 2011. At least 43 protesters participating in an "Occupy Cabinet" sit-in were rushed to the hospital with acute food poisoning on December 15. Protesters reportedly became ill after consuming food handed out to the crowd of hundreds gathered outside of the Council of Ministers building, and activists suspect foul play.
The April 6 Youth Movement claimed that the food poisoning episode is part of a counter-revolutionary "elimination process" that started with military trials and escalated with the use of lethal violence against protesters in Tahrir Square and outside of the Maspero state television headquarters in October. A statement published on the movement’s official Facebook page posed the question, “Who are the ‘invisible hands’ responsible this time, and for how long will these ‘invisible hands’ continue threatening the security of Egypt and the young revolutionaries?” In response to the accusations, Egyptian prosecutors have sent blood and gastric juice samples for testing at Health Ministry labs.
The April 6 Movement’s reference to "invisible hands" invokes the same language used by the SCAF in late November, when renewed anti-military demonstrations in Tahrir Square led to violent clashes between security forces and protesters. At the time, SCAF member General Said Abbas tried to deligtimze the demands of protesters by protraying them as reckless and subversive radicals. Abbas claimed, “There is an invisible hand in the square causing a rift between the army and the people." Starting in July, when the SCAF accused the April 6 Youth Movement of receiving illegal foreign funding and training in Serbia, the SCAF has dramatically intensified a smear campaign targeting activists and human rights groups, in an obvious attempt to deflect criticism of the military onto "invisible hands" and other conspiratorial scapegoats.
Now, after a possible case of deliberate food poisoning, the April 6 Youth Movement is firing back at the SCAF with the same metaphors used by the military to defame activists. Whether or not the latest accusations by protesters are true, they reflect a new level of distrust and hostility toward the SCAF.
Photo Credit: Cartoon by Carlos Latuff