Al-Ahram Weekly Online   11 - 17 October 2012
Issue No. 1118
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

One year on

The relatives of the "Maspero martyrs" are still seeking their rights one year after the killings, writes Sarah Murad

Click to view caption
A sorry annual anniversary when an Armed Forces truck was set ablaze in clashes between the military police and Coptic protesters

The relatives of the Maspero victims killed last year in clashes with the military police outside the Maspero television building in Cairo commemorated the first anniversary of the killings by holding farewell masses on 9 October, but no demonstrations were planned by the families of the 27 Coptic victims.

A peaceful march starting from Shobra district and heading to Maspero was organised on the day.

While chanting slogans against the rule of the former ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) in front of the Radio and Television building at Maspero in Cairo, Coptic protesters were attacked by unknown assailants mobilised in response to a call by the then information minister Osama Heikal urging the public to protect the Armed Forces from "Coptic attackers".

Video footage showed armoured vehicles crushing the bodies of protesters, leaving dozens dead and injured. One year on, just three military officers have been charged with the killings or have received mild penalties.

On the evening of the events last year, dozens of civilians were arrested and referred to military courts on charges of inciting sectarian violence, destroying military property and assaulting military personnel.

Last week, around 30 Coptic families filed complaints against former head of the SCAF Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, former Chief of Staff Sami Anan, former head of the military police Hamdi Badeen and current head of the military police Ibrahim Al-Damati, accusing them of killing the Coptic protesters in October 2011.

Bishoi Tamri, a member of the Maspero Youth Union, told Al-Ahram Weekly only two officers had received two-year jail terms for manslaughter and the third had been sentenced to three years in prison.

Al-Damati, who used to be deputy chief of the military police, was also promoted to head of the military police and was not put on trial, Tamri said.

"We have lost faith in the Egyptian judicial system, and we are probably going to escalate the case if we do not get our rights," Tamri said.

Most of the families complain that the National Council for the Care of the Revolution Martyrs Families has not been effective in taking up the case. "However, this is not our primary focus or target. What the families really need and are seeking is to feel that the blood of their loved ones was not spilled in vain," Tamri added.

Naguib Gobrail, a Coptic legal activist and the lawyer of five of the families, told the Weekly that on the night of the killings the crime scene had been cleansed. Live ammunition casings and traces of blood were cleared from the scene, he said, adding that in his view those responsible for the clean-up were the prosecutor-general and the military prosecutor.

Gobrail said that the military prosecutor told the plaintiffs "not to dream that Tantawi will be questioned". He said that "when they stuck the charges onto the three officers, we decided to withdraw from the sessions."

Like Tamri, Gobrail said that if the families did not receive their rights in Egypt, they would appeal to international courts since the killings took place against civilians and violated human rights.

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