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ANHRI calls on attorney general to investigate telecoms' responsibility in civilian deaths

(ANHRI/IFEX) - Cairo, February 24th, 2011 - The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) filed a complaint on 23 February with the Attorney General, Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, demanding an investigation of the minister of communications, the chair of the national telecommunications authority, the CEOs of mobile phone companies Mobinil, Etisalat, Vodafone and telecommunications services, and CEOs of ISPs and TE Data for "criminal liability in participation in the harming and killing of demonstrators by cutting off the Internet and telecommunication services in Egypt arbitrarily."

Demonstrators in Tahrir Square area, including ANHRI employees, were surprised on the evening of January 25 by a deliberate interruption of telecommunications services resulting in widespread panic. Service was cut for three consecutive days, exposing protesters to serious risk as those who were injured were unable to get immediate medical attention, resulting in a high death toll.

ISPs and TE Data have violated the rights of citizens and Internet users in Egypt, including ANHRI, by impeding their work, which relies heavily on the Internet. Both ISPs cut off Internet services for more than five days from January 28 to February 2 in an unacceptable assault on the rights of Internet users and a blatant violation of the terms of contract.

One tragic example is the case of Ahmed Abdel-Rahim Ahmed, 18, who was shot in the chest by interior ministry officers while taking part in the peaceful demonstrations. His friends tried to call an ambulance but the interruption of telecommunications services denied Ahmed his right to treatment. His friends carried him to the nearest hospital but sadly, he bled to death.

"The criminal behaviour of telecommunications companies and ISPs during the January 25 revolution did not stop at the violation of Egyptians' freedom of expression and breach of contract with subscribers, but extended to participation in the siege of peaceful demonstrators in Tahrir Square and the deliberate obstruction of medical aid to the injured, for which they must bear criminal responsibility," said ANHRI. "The Attorney General must open an urgent investigation into these events so that these criminals do not enjoy impunity."

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