Al-Ahram Weekly Online   21 - 27 April 2011
Issue No. 1044
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Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Blood on their hands

No surprise, but now official: former interior minister Habib El-Adli and ousted president Hosni Mubarak may eventually be implicated in the killing of protesters, reports Mohamed Abdel-Baky

After two months of investigation, the final report of the fact-finding committee on the events of the 25 January Revolution was released Tuesday, revealing that scores of protesters were intentionally killed by anti-terror police squads. The committee, headed by Judge Adel Qoura, was charged with gathering evidence and conducting investigations on violence targeting peaceful protests during the 18-day uprising that forced former president Hosni Mubarak to step down.

The committee's 500-page report indicates that 846 civilians were killed and at least 6,400 injured by the former regime's thugs, snipers and Central Security personnel in many cities across the country. The report revealed that former interior minister El-Adli gave orders to use live ammunition on protesters in more than 16 governorates, including Cairo, Alexandria and Suez.

In Cairo, investigators found that the police fired rubber bullets, shotgun shells and live ammunition at protesters from 25-28 January. Also collected was evidence that indicated that the State Security Counter-Terrorism Unit used snipers to shoot protesters from building rooftops overlooking Tahrir Square, including the Ministry of Interior building, the Nile Hilton Hotel and the American University campus.

The committee also verified that protesters were frequently killed by one shot aimed at the forehead and that injured protesters were often shot in the eye, indicating that the harm was intentional rather than just to scare off protesters. "Most of the death cases were due to fatal shots at the head and the chest," the report said, which is based on 800 video clips and interviews with more than 17,000 officials and witnesses.

The committee consisted of a number of volunteer judges, activists and law experts, formed after the "Battle of the Camel" when National Democratic Party (NDP) senior officials and businessmen hired thugs and horse and camel riders to attack protesters on 2 February in Tahrir Square. The attack sparked an anti-Mubarak backlash across Egypt calling for his ouster.

The committee said that it aims to provide the Egyptian people "with truth about the killing of their fellow citizens who gave their lives for the sake of freedom". The committee reports directly to the prosecutor-general and has no affiliation to the government. Its members are all unpaid volunteers.

The investigation focussed on five main themes: the killing of peaceful protesters; the invasion of Tahrir Square by thugs to disperse the protesters; the illegal detention of demonstrators and journalists; the security breakdown and the opening of prisons after 28 January; and the cutting off of mobile, fixed line and data communications from 28 January to 5 February.

The report added that random shots killed many people who were watching the protests from their balconies. Other evidence shows police and diplomatic vehicles ran over tens of civilians and killed them intentionally in Downtown Cairo. Twenty-six police officers and policemen and 189 prisoners were also killed.

The secretary-general of the committee, judge Omar Marwan, pointed out that Mubarak was implicated in the killings of protesters. "The shooting lasted for several days. There were people killed in Suez on 25 January. Neither the president nor the interior minister ordered any kind of investigation. Then killings happened in other cities. No investigation was conducted," Marwan said during a press conference Tuesday.

"They did not interfere to stop it or hold accountable those who fired live rounds; this confirmed their involvement in responsibility," Marwan said.

Concerning the "Battle of the Camel", the report accused prominent members of the former ruling NDP and certain businessmen of planning the attack on 2 February in Tahrir Square, in which dozens were injured and killed.

The report said that pro-Mubarak supporters stormed on Tahrir Square from three directions using stones and Molotov cocktails, knives and some of the police snipers were positioned on the rooftop of some apartment buildings that overlooked the square.

"After an hour of bloody clashes between thugs and protesters, a group of horse and camel riders invaded the square, running over anti-Mubarak protesters and beating them with batons and swords," the report added.

The former NDP secretary-general Safwat El-Sherif is believed to be the mastermind of the Battle of the Camel attack. More than 20 thugs arrested after the battle allegedly admitted that two parliament members representing the constituency of Haram in Giza governorate had hired them to launch an attack on camel and horseback against peaceful protesters.

The suspect list of those responsible for the attack includes Ibrahim Kamel, a businessman, Aisha Abdel-Hadi, former minister of manpower, Hussein Megawer, chairman of the General Egyptian Federation of Trade Unions, and Mortada Mansour, a lawyer.

The committee outlined in the report two scenarios for the escape of thousands of prisoners from police stations and prisons around Egypt's governorates.

The first scenario is that the former minister of interior gave orders to allow prisoners to escape from prisons located in areas close to Cairo, in order to spread fear and chaos, believing that this would discourage people from leaving their homes.

This argument is supported, according to the report, by some prisoner testimonies that said that they were forced to escape in Wadi Al-Natron and Tora prisons after police officers opened the doors and fired tear gas into the cells.

The second scenario, outlined in the report, is that armed men stormed the prisons using heavy guns to free prisoners. "In Abu Zaabal prison armed men used shoot guns and ammunition imported from abroad and not similar to models that Egypt security has, indicating that external forces used this opportunity to free some prisoners," Marwan said.

He added that Abu Zaabal had 30 prisoners from Hamas and Hizbullah and all escaped and arrived to Gaza and South Lebanon a few hours after the prison break.

The report pointed an accusing finger at Hamas and Hizbullah for their involvement in planning the escape of prisoners and using heavy ammunition to this end.

Mobile phone networks and the Internet were cut off, and satellite channels interfered with, so as to block news about the demonstrations and prevent protesters from coordinating more demonstrations.

The report said that on 23 January security officials held meetings with representatives from the three mobile network companies and informed them that they might need to shut down the cell phone network and Internet at some point.

"They had no option, as the law that coordinates communications in Egypt forces them to shut down communications when security authorities ask them to do so," Marwan said.

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