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Coptic leaders to file complaint against gov’t at African Court

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CAIRO: Coptic leaders are filing a complaint at the African Court on Human and People’s Rights against the Egyptian Minister of Justice and the government, calling for the formation of an impartial fact-finding committee to investigate the Maspero clashes.

The complaint is filed by Awad Shafiq, professor of international law, and Shetewy Abdallah, head of the Swedish Coptic Authority as well as the Egyptian Coptic Union.

"The complaint questions the integrity of the fact-finding committee established by the Ministry of Justice, and accuses it of being biased," Nader Shoukri, leading member of the Coptic Maspero Youth Union, said during a press conference on Thursday.

The groups wanted instead a committee made up of trusted civil society figures to investigate the Maspero clashes, which left 27 dead and more than 300 injured on Oct. 9.

However, Ihab Aziz, human rights activist and co-founder of the Egyptian Coptic Union, pointed out that it would be difficult for the African Court to accept the complaint.

"A case has to be tried, appealed and then the appeal should be refused by Egyptian courts before the African court [can] accept it," Aziz explained.

"This process could take 10 years or more," he added.

Coptic leaders are seeking to reach an agreement with the African Court, so it can accept the complaint without going through the lengthy process of Egyptian courts, according to Aziz.

"I believe there’s a 70 percent chance that we will be able to convince the African Court to accept our complaint," Aziz told Daily News Egypt, following the conference.

"The African Court has a great influence on the Egyptian authorities," he added.

The Coptic Maspero Youth Union called for forming an impartial fact-finding committee including Copts and Muslims known for their integrity to investigate all the violations against Copts before and after the Jan. 25 Revolution.

"It’s not fair for the adversary to be the judge," said the panelists, referring to the investigations held by the military prosecution, regarding clashes between military forces and Coptic protesters on Oct. 9.

Lawyer Ihab Edward said the forensic department failed to write comprehensive reports for the martyrs, saying that it didn’t specify the size of the bullets or the distance they were shot from.

The clashes were described as the bloodiest since Jan. 28.

During an interview with Dream TV and Al-Tahrir channel on Wednesday night, military council member and Assistant Defense Minister Mohamed El-Aassar denied that Copts were responsible for the clashes, adding that a third party wanted to cause sectarian strife and division between the army and the people.

"Then why were 28 Copts detained by military police without proving any charges against them?" asked Antionne Adel, spokesperson of the union, in response to El-Aassar’s comments.

"The army is the authority in Egypt now and it’s its responsibility to protect the people…not every other violation should be pinned on unknown infiltrators," he added.

The Union issued a statement condemning the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) for their "brutal attack" on "peaceful protesters."

"We were faced with armored vehicles, guns and ammunition, we raised our voices against injustice and humiliation, announcing that we were peaceful," read the statement.

"The Egyptian army responded with bullets that penetrated the hearts of our martyrs and their APCs ran over our bodies," the statement added.

A video was played, demonstrating peaceful protesters getting run over by APCs. SCAF had previously denied deliberately shooting or running over the protesters, suggesting that the APCs might’ve been stolen from the army.

Hani Ramsis, leading member of the Coptic Union of Maspero Youth, raised a number of questions regarding SCAF’s statements.

"Do the Armed Forces and their APCs move without orders? Is the army soldier incapable of protecting his weapons and APCs?" he questioned.

The youths likened SCAF’s reign to Mubarak’s, where recurring violations against Copts went unprosecuted.

"We the Copts of Egypt took to the streets to call for our rights that have been violated during the dark policies of the ousted president and the transitional government after him," the statement said.

The Union called for an official apology from SCAF to the Copts of Egypt, releasing the Copts who have been detained, and investigating all those involved in the bloody clashes including those in the government, SCAF and Egyptian state TV for inciting sectarian strife.

The Union also called for the prosecution of all those who ignored the attack on the Marinab Church near Aswan, which ignited the protests, including the governor of Aswan.

Vivian Magdy, who was engaged to martyr Michael Mosaad, said she visited seven of the martyrs’ families recently.

"Some of the martyrs left their [children] and pregnant wives behind," she said.

Magdy recalled her last words to Mosaad before he died.

"I promised him I would get his rights back," she said. Mosaad was run over by an APC.

"They cursed us, beat us and run us over without respecting our humanity or the speed bumps created by our bodies," she added.




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