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Civil society organisations condemn acts of violence, extrajudicial killings in Maspero incident

(CIHRS/IFEX) - 16 October 2011 - The undersigned organizations condemn the unprecedented extrajudicial killings and acts of violence committed by military police and central security forces on 9 October 2011 in the Maspero area and central Cairo. Peaceful protesters demanding rights for Coptic citizens were attacked, resulting in at least 25 deaths and 300 injuries, some critical. We further condemn the arrest of an unknown number of demonstrators and their referral to a military tribunal for investigation. We call for an independent investigation committee, and categorically reject any investigation by the military prosecutor, as it is a part of the military establishment charged with the killing and wounding of demonstrators, and cannot therefore serve as a neutral party to the case.

The demonstration consisted of a peaceful march, which began in Shubra at around 4 p.m., and a silent protest outside the state television building. The demonstrators were protesting against the demolition of the Church of St. George, in the village of Al-Marinab in Edfu District, Aswan Governorate, as well as against the complicity of the Governor of Aswan and security forces in the demolition. The church, which had been carrying out religious services for eighty years, was destroyed on the pretext that it did not have a licence, an argument increasingly used by some extremist Muslim groups to justify attacks on churches. Rather than deterring such crimes by enforcing the law and punishing the instigators and perpetrators, the authorities have borrowed the methods of the ousted Mubarak regime. In an open violation of the law, security services persist in holding "traditional" reconciliation meetings in which victims are denied their rights and criminals escape punishment. As such extremists have come to realize that they will not be held accountable by the authorities.

According to video footage and eyewitness testimonies from Maspero, military police and central security force personnel dispersed protesters by opening fire and by using military vehicles to run them down. Demonstrators threw stones at security personnel and set an army vehicle on fire. The two sides then threw stones at each other.

The events took a final turn at around 9 p.m. when people in civilian clothing joined the army assault on protesters. A large number of witnesses stated that these people were Muslims from the areas of Bulaq Abul Ela and Ghamra. The army and police continued to fire teargas and bullets late into the evening, and the hit and run attacks also continued. In addition, the military police arrested a number of people, who were then to be detained for 15 days pending investigation.

We also condemn the storming of the offices of the satellite TV channels Al-Hurra and 25 January TV by teams of military police during the Maspero events, cutting off their live broadcasts. We condemn the inflammatory role played by the official state media. A direct link can be traced between the outright incitement against demonstrators by state media and the events at Maspero - to say nothing of the subsequent sectarian clashes which took place between demonstrators and residents from the surrounding areas. Official state television threw professionalism to the wind and reported that Coptic demonstrators had opened fire on soldiers, killing three and wounding others, without referring to the victims amongst the demonstrators, who were completely ignored. State media broadcast an inflammatory appeal to Egyptian citizens to take to the streets and protect the army from "attacks by Coptic demonstrators."

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