Egypt imports 140,000 tear gas canisters from U.S.

The dangerous amount of tear gas used by Morsi's forces is being replenished, with "made in the USA" logos removed

Topics: Egypt, Egyptian Protests, Hosni Mubarak, Mohammed Morsi, Tear gas,

Just as U.S.-made tear gas was used against protesters by Egyptian security forces under Hosni Mubarak, the U.S. government continues to permit hundreds of thousands of canisters to imported to Egypt for profligate use under Mohammed Morsi.

“In January, the Interior Ministry ordered the import of 140,000 teargas canisters from the United States,” Egypt Independent reported this week. According to the English-language publication, a memo from the Egyptian police’s Major General Magdy al-Gohary indicated that the U.S. government only okayed the permit for the tear gas import when “the company’s name and country of origin” were removed from the canisters. During the Arab Spring, pictures from Tahrir Square of empty canister brandished with “made in the USA” logos garnered viral attention and international outrage as protesters reportedly suffocated in excessive tear gas fumes and were directly struck by canisters.

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Egypt Independent cited the Major General’s memo as reading:

The permit from the US government was obtained after removing the company’s name and country of origin written on the items. While writing the memorandum on 28 January 2013, procedures were taken to ship the items via sea. They are expected to reach the Egyptian ports during the first half of April.

Guardian Cairo correspondent Patrick Kingsley noted that the Egyptian government had spent the equivalent of around $2.5 million on the January tear gas order, despite the government “nearing bankruptcy – and amid a wave of police brutality that 21 human rights groups this week labelled a return to Mubarak-era state repression.” Kingsley reported on grave claims of police brutality:

Teargas has been repeatedly used during protests this year, at times rendering it unsafe to navigate thoroughfares in downtown Cairo that lie several streets from the clashes. At one point in January, Tahrir Doctors – a group of volunteer medics who treat protesters hurt in clashes – warned that teargas in Tahrir Square had reached dangerous levels.

But the teargas is just one part of a wave of violence that led 21 Egyptian rights groups to claim on Thursday that police brutality is as serious – or in some cases worse – than it was under Hosni Mubarak. Since the start of the unrest, sparked by the two-year anniversary of Mubarak’s toppling on 25 January, activists say at least 70 protesters have been been tortured, with hundreds more detained without trial. In some cases, protesters have been murdered and raped.

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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