Tuesday,21 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1132, 24 - 30 January 2013
Tuesday,21 August, 2018
Issue 1132, 24 - 30 January 2013

Ahram Weekly

Riot on the coast

Alexandria was the scene of clashes between security forces and protesters, reports Mohamed Abdel-Baky

Al-Ahram Weekly

Violent clashes erupted in Alexandria on Saturday afternoon between protesters and security forces in front of the Criminal Court in the coastal city.

The violence started after political activists and relatives of those who died during the 2011 revolution, waiting outside the courtroom, learned that the presiding judge hearing the case had decided to step down only one day before a final verdict was to have been issued.

The decision taken by the judge means that the trial must start from scratch.

Protesters hurled stones at security forces who responded with tear gas outside the courthouse where six senior police officers were standing trial on charges of killing protesters during the 25 January Revolution.

Trying to disperse the angry crowd, security forces used tear gas and birdshot along Alexandria’s main road, from the Manshiya district to Al-Raml train station. More than 20 people were reportedly injured.

Three police vehicles were set on fire. Protesters accused of destroying police property were arrested.

During the clashes between protesters and the security, unidentified assailants raided the court and set fire to legal papers and documents inside. Firemen put out the blaze but not before the southern part of the court caught fire.

Sunday’s incident was the second clash to erupt between protesters and security forces outside Alexandria’s Criminal Court in as many days. A day earlier, protesters and police clashed outside the same courthouse. Families of those killed were angered by the judge’s decision on Saturday banning the prosecution from summoning witnesses to give their testimonies.

“The police used brutal means to disperse us,” said Mohamed Mustafa, a protester at the scene. “We came here to protest for the right of the martyrs and the independence of the judiciary, so why are we treated like that?” Mustafa also asked why the judge would step down only a day before the verdict “unless he was subject to some kind of pressure.”

In a letter he wrote after stepping down, judge Mohamed Abdel-Hadi said that he made the decision because he felt that he could not perform his duties and pass a ruling in such an “unstable situation”.

“It is almost impossible for any judge to work in these circumstances. Since 16 April protesters have been besieging the courthouse and clashes have been breaking out with security,” Abdel-Hadi said. “So I am stepping down from this case and I have submitted this request to the Alexandria chief justice of the Appeals Court.”

Abdel-Hadi said he asked the Alexandria Appeals court to transfer the trial to the New Cairo district, east of the capital, but that there was no response to his request. He also said in the letter that the Alexandria Security Directorate informed him it could not deal with the protesters and control the situation outside the court.

On Monday, Alexandria police said in a statement that 40 suspects had been arrested and referred to the prosecution-general for questioning.

According to the statement, 31 suspects were accused of destroying two police vehicles by setting them on fire, hurling stones at security forces and injuring three recruits. The remaining nine suspects were charged with raiding the court.

A team of prosecutors inspected the scene with the assistance of a medical squad from the Justice Ministry to examine files that were set ablaze and another team of engineers to inspect the building following the attack.

Since Hosni Mubarak was ousted as president on 11 February 2011, nearly 100 police officers have been brought to trial on charges of killing and wounding protesters. All were acquitted or received suspended sentences. Mubarak and his former interior minister Habib Al-Adli were sentenced to life imprisonment for failing to stop the killings. However, they were allowed a retrial this month.

Around 900 protesters died in the revolt that began two years ago with some 300 killed in Alexandria alone.

A fact-finding committee set up by President Mohamed Morsi, who came to office in June as Egypt’s first freely elected president, submitted a 700-page report this month on protester deaths over the past two years. The commission included judges, legal activists and representatives from the Interior Ministry and the intelligence, as well as families of victims.

The mission recommended that one body should investigate the deaths, regardless of whether the accused were serving in the military, police or were civilians.

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