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Thousands of Egypt's Islamists protest against state security

MYT 7:30:01 AM

CAIRO (Reuters) - Around 2,000 Egyptian hardline Islamists protested on Thursday night outside the state security headquarters in a Cairo suburb against what they said was a return to the force's pre-revolution methods.

The protest points to lingering suspicion harboured by the hardliners about security agencies used against them by ousted President Hosni Mubarak, and which, they say, Islamist President Mohamed Mursi has been unable to reform.

The protesters, some waving the black-and-white al Qaeda flag, chanted slogans against Mursi and accused him of building a security apparatus no different from the old one.

No police presence was visible outside the security headquarters, where protesters tore down Interior Ministry flags and erected several al Qaeda flags and lit off fireworks.

A small group attempted to break down a door on the headquarter's perimeter but gave up before causing damage to the door. A Jewish Star of David was drawn by some protesters on the wall's perimeter.

Several Salafi Islamist groups had issued a statement earlier in the day saying state security organs had returned to "criminal practices" such as summoning citizens for investigation, threatening the achievements of the 2011 uprising.

Egypt dissolved the feared and hated state security apparatus, which has been used by Mubarak's administration to crush political opposition, including from Islamists who were repressed under the old guard, the month after he was toppled.

It was replaced by a new National Security Force, which the Interior Ministry promised would serve the nation without interfering in the lives of citizens or their right to exercise their political views.

The protesters had marched from a nearby mosque after evening prayers. Some chanted to onlookers in apartments on streets clogged by the march "come down from your houses, state security is Mubarak".

The system of law and justice has been a major stumbling block in post-Mubarak Egypt. A rift between the Islamist rulers and the judiciary, which Islamists see as controlled by Mubarak loyalists, is steadily widening amid a broader struggle over the future character of the country.

Earlier on Thursday, an Egyptian judge referred a complaint filed by a police spokesman against popular hardline Islamist cleric Hazem Salah Abu Ismail to the state security prosecution, setting a hearing for Saturday to begin the investigation.

State newspaper Al-Ahram reported that the complaint called for Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim to arrest Abu Ismail on charges of "terrorising police officers" after Abu Ismail urged his supporters to attend Thursday's protest.

The police spokesman's complaint added that such demonstrations hindered officers in their work to protect national security.

(Reporting by Abdelrahman Youssef and Ali Abdelaty; Writing by Maggie Fick and Tom Perry; Editing by Alison Williams and Michael Roddy)

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