After we gave our statements at the first police station, we were on the move again, they put us(Derek, Austin and I) in the back seat of a blue police pickup truck, and packed Kamal and Zakaria in his own taxi, with a police escort. When I asked where we were going, they told us to another police station to finish up the paperwork.
We arrived at the bigger Mahalla Second Police Station (Qism Thani Al Mahalla) where we waited in a large office, all sitting in one row on a couch on one side of the office, with who seemed to be a high-ranking police officer who drove with us from the first police station, behind the desk in the middle, and on the other couch across the room, sat our witnesses, staring at us, and laughing and talking all the while. One, who I now know to be named Magdy, had his phone aimed towards us, mainly me, and was sneakily (or so he thought) either taking photos or filming… Once I noticed, I told the officer behind the desk about it, but he waved it away… at least I got him to stop filming…
The 11 year old kid (whose name is Mohammed) was also just staring at us, and sniggering every once on a while with one of the two adult witnesses, Magdy and the other one Ali. Next thing I notice was Magdy on the phone right after this, and was chatting with someone, then he said something along the lines of “I would do anything for Egypt”, while glancing at us sideways, with his whole arm raised importantly to hold his cell phone to his ear.
Shortly after this little scene, we were on the move again, and even though we never got a clear answer, I asked again, where we were going? And a vague answer is what I got…
Kamal and Zakaria were again installed in the Cairo taxi we came in along with an escort, and we got in a cleaner blue pick up truck, us three again in the back, and there was some kind of extension, wrapped in clear plastic, with 2 rows of seats, where the witnesses sat, behind our cabin. I did not really realise this, until we were well on our way.
Half-way through, the taxi in front of us stopped and the escort got out and in a few big steps was at our car, he rudely told us to hand over our phones, then he also took Austin’s laptop. It was bound to happen I guess, but I was disappointed because I was tweeting until that interruption. But I also starting grasping what kind of trouble we were in.
All the way down to Tanta, which we soon realised was where we were headed, the police escort in the front seat kept chatting to Austin and Derek, in beginner English.
I was quickly bored with the conversation, and looked out the window for a while, I don’t know why it occurred to me, but I glanced back, and first thing I saw, was the witness kid staring at my back, then my face, and he quickly made a slit-throat motion at me, it actually freaked me out, so I turned around quickly and was very careful not to look back for the rest of the ride.
We finally arrive at Tanta, to an even bigger MOI building. It was the Security Chief headquarters of Tanta. (Modireyet Al Amn Tanta)
There was a crowd of police personnel, in uniform and in civilian clothing waiting for us. Some of the civilian clothed personnel whipped out their camera cell phones, and started filming us stepping out if the car, and up the stairs. It was horrible. All those cameras pointing at us, getting in our faces… People yelling instructions to look their way, so they can get a better shot.
We finally arrived at the hallway, around 8 on Saturday evening in that building (I had to clarify it was the same day later, because it felt like to ages to me personally, the ride, the walk up the stairs…)
So, there was only one elevator out of four, that was functioning, it seemed to me… designed to carry 4 people… They managed to squeeze in Austin, Derek, two escorts, and two of the witnesses and myself into it. I was pressed up against Derek from one side, and a witness against us from the other side, it was weird.
Once we got off the elevator and into an office, the camera phones were on again, and for a long time, while we sat on a green couch, these same people as before, were getting photos and filming clips of us, telling us to look their way… ( those are the photos that make their way to all the major newspapers the following morning) I found it pointless to object to the filming and photos, they all obviously condoned it.
We waited there for a longer period… An officer in civilian clothes, who made the trip with us from Mahalla, and who had earlier taken our phones, now took more of our possessions, he first pointed at our phones, that he still had them, and we each wrote up, on his instructions, all the things he would take, he did not take my bag, he took some cash I had, and wrote it down, along with my phone, and took Austin’s camera and other items, then sent us back to the couch, beside to the witnesses on the couch next to ours.
I asked to use the bathroom, for the fourth time in that office, knowing I would get the same excuse that they can’t find the key… It was really cold, and we all needed to use it, there was nothing I could do but keep asking…
They seemed to think it was funny, that we kept asking to use the bathroom, I started to get nervous, and it started taking priority in my mind. A while later, and a number of ignored requests later, a seemingly more important official, in civilian clothes, walked into the room, I saw my chance, and leapt out of my seat, and sweetly smiled at him, requesting to use the bathroom, for me and the four others with me. This man, then bossily gave orders to take us to the bathroom, so one by one we made our way up two floors to this disgusting bathroom, but what a relief it was finally. That is it when I decided to stop drinking water to save myself the humiliation of asking for the bathroom.
Shortly after, we were led into another room, bigger and better furnished. There were other officers sitting at the desk, who we have not seen up to that moment. They asked us basic questions, took everything we owned, the guys were all frisked down and their pockets emptied. The officers wrote down everything and put the small things into envelopes with our names on them, respectively. We were then taken to the back yard area, and for the first time handcuffed. They handcuffed Derek and I together, and put us in the car and handcuffed our other free hands to the upper hand grips on either side.
That was in a side street, and people started crowding around us… The officer, seemingly in charge, then gave orders that our windows would be card-boarded and rolled up, and civilian clothed personnel immediately fell to the task… The man on my side of the car, who was tearing up a piece of cardboard to fit my window, started hissing insults at me, just above his breath, no one else could hear of course… He called me a whore and slut…as he finished boarding up the window, and slammed the door shut.
The official in charge got in the car with us, I couldn’t what happened to Austin, Kamal and Zakaria, I just assumed they in a car following us… I can’t remember if I asked where we were off to, or not, but I distinctly recall not knowing where we were being taken for most of the way. The officer in the front seat, kept making conversation with Derek and I, he had better English too, and he then told me in Arabic, that he thought I was just mixed up in all of this, and that I didn’t seem to him the type to raise suspicions, and he then pointed out that Austin seemed like the most suspicions one of us, and that I should tell the truth to get myself out of this mess. I answered that I had nothing to hide, and no story to tell but the truth…
The funny thing, is that he kept asking, every interval, if the handcuffs were comfortable, because they kept jingling with bumps in the road, we kept answering that they were fine(saw no point in saying otherwise)
The driver, who also worked on the police force, obviously, was only addressed by the official on instructions to move to the right or left lane, and whether to slow down or speed up… And I remember thinking, this guy probably is just thinking about finishing his shift and going home. We arrived in Cairo, I figured it out because we drove by a landmark shopping mall in Nasr City, and I could see it through the windshield… We then drove through the opened up gates of a walled up complex, military intelligence, off the main road (I knew that, because I had attended a course in another similar military complex across the street from this one …it had just struck midnight of Saturday, which was five hours into my phoneless existence, and 11 hours since this all started…