Egypt: Authorities accused of inciting sectarian violence

Clashes in Maspero
(Photo: Youm7)

Twenty-one human rights organizations (among them the Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement, focal point of Social Watch in that country) accused this week the interim government in Cairo and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces of inciting the sectarian violence that caused almost 30 deaths this month in Maspero.

These organizations condemned the “unprecedented extra-judicial killings and acts of violence committed by military police and central security forces” on Oct. 9 in Maspero and central Cairo, where Coptic Christian community were protesting against the demolition of the Church of St. George, in the village of Al-Marinab.

The temple, built eighty years ago, 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,” warned the organizations.

“Peaceful protesters demanding rights for Coptic citizens were attacked, leading to 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,” reads the statement published on Wednesday.

Christians comprise about 10 percent of Egypt’s population.

The human right activists also condemned “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” and “the inflammatory role played by the official state media”.

“We call for an independent investigation committee, and categorically reject any investigation by the military prosecutor; as it 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,” remarked the rights organizations.

“According to video footage and eyewitness testimonies from Maspero, military police and central security forces 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,” recounts the statement.

“Events took a final twist (at night) when people in civilian clothes joined the army’s assault on protesters. A large number of witnesses stated that these were Muslims from the areas of Bulaq Abul Ela and Ghamra. The army and police continued to fire tear gas and bullets late into the evening; the hit and run attacks also continued. The military police also arrested a number of people, who were then detained for 15 days pending investigation,” the text adds.

The statement was signed by the following organizations: the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights; Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies; Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement; Arabic Network for Human Rights Information; New Woman Foundation; Egyptian Foundation for the Advancement of the Conditions of Childhood; Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression; Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights; Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture; Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies; Habi Centre for Environmental Rights; Hisham Mubarak Law Centre; Egyptians Against Religious Discrimination; Egyptian Democratic Institute; Nazra for Feminist Studies; United Group of Lawyers and Legal Advisers; Organization of Coptic Solidarity; Al-Helaly Inistitute for Freedoms; Arab Penal Reform Organization; Human Rights Association for the Assistance of Prisoners; ant the Land Center For Human Rights.

This information is based on data from the following sources:
Youm7 (English Edition):
Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement: