18 detained in Nazlet al-Semman protests granted release

Eighteen residents and workers from Nezlet al-Semman were granted release by a Giza court on Sunday, pending investigation into charges stemming from last week’s protest against building demolitions in their Giza neighborhood.

Those that were released are part of a group of more than 30 people were arrested last week after clashes broke out on Monday between protesters and security forces who were called in to suppress demonstrations against the demolition of residential buildings in what could be a prime real estate neighborhood that overlooks the Giza pyramids.

While granted release, the 18 defendants still face charges of resisting authorities, illegal assembly and injuring a police officer, according to according to Mohie Khattab, a lawyer for one of the residents. Thirteen other residents arrested on Monday were released before appearing before the prosecution, Khattab added.

Demolition work in Nazlet al-Semman began on January 17, when more than 10 police and CSF vehicles, three municipality vehicles, as well as a number of bulldozers, arrived in the area, an eyewitness previously told Mada Masr. The Giza Governorate issued a statement on January 18 announcing that four buildings in the area were being demolished, asserting that the buildings did not have licenses.

Khattab told Mada Masr on Wednesday that demolition work in the area had stopped, after the government workers razed one building. The top floors of the three other buildings had been removed for putatively surpassing their licensed height, according to the lawyer.

However, residents say that the government removed three or four floors, all of which were inhabited, from the three buildings that had exceeded licensed heights by only one floor, Khattab added.  

The accusation that the buildings are not properly licensed was first broached days before the demolitions in a media campaign led by state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper and TV presenter Ahmed Moussa.

Sameh al-Gabry, the deputy head of the local civil association to develop Nazlet al-Semman, who participated in Monday’s protest, previously told Mada Masr earlier that they had requested clarification on the development plan of the area, amid fears of eviction. They have not received a response, according to the deputy.

In February 2017, the government announced that it was close to finishing its development plan for the area surrounding the pyramids, a plan that began in 2008. While development should have concluded by May 2018, it remains ongoing. The plan also comes amid preparations for the 2020 opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum, which is located two kilometers from the pyramids and the Sphinx of Giza.

Tensions have repeatedly surfaced between the government and the residents of different areas in Cairo — including the Maspero Triangle, Manshiyet Nasser and Warraq island — as a result of government attempts to demolish buildings, evict residents or confiscate lands. Residents of these areas have expressed their anger at the government for carrying out these plans without conducting proper dialogue with or providing adequate compensation for the communities affected.

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