Police arrested 12 activists in Alexandria after they attempted to stop trains departing from the Egypt Railroad Station in protest at the Badrashein train crash that killed 19 and injured almost 120 police conscripts early on Tuesday morning.
Five human rights lawyers intending to defend the protesters were also detained. The lawyers and protesters were later released said defence lawyer Mohamed Massoud.
“The activists were trying to stop the train in protest at the Badrashein incident when police arrested them. The train left on time. Police clashed with other activists who gathered in support of their arrested colleagues,” said Massoud.
He added that 10 of the activists were protesting at the Egypt Railroad Station and two at the Sidi Gaber station and all had been released.
“The police also did not allow us [lawyers] to leave although they did not formally arrest us. They said we were detained and would not release us until the police chief came and ordered them to. It was a clear threat that they could arrest us whenever they wanted,” Massoud said.
A similar protest took place at the Egypt Railroad Station in downtown Cairo but there were no arrests. Hundreds gathered at the station near Ramses Square chanting against President Mohamed Morsy and the Muslim Brotherhood.
“All officials should be punished for this, starting from the president all the way to the railway workers. Negligence has increased since Morsy took over,” said protester Mahmoud Hesham.
Hesham added that he believed Prime Minister Hesham Qandil and the entire cabinet should resign.
The train crash in Badrashein, Giza left 19 Central Security Forces conscripts dead and 120 injured according to figures from the Ministry of Health.
The train was transporting the conscripts, all born between 1990 and 1992, to their camps when the last carriage derailed and smashed into a stationary freight train.
Eyewitnesses said ambulances were quick to respond but they were the only government service to do so.
Civil defence units and tractors needed to extract injured people trapped under the train were late to arrive while bystanders attempted to help the injured.
The prosecutor general ordered an investigation into the accident and the train’s driver will be detained for four days on charges of negligence leading to death.
An earlier train crash in Assiut last November left over 50 children dead. The transport minister at the time tendered his resignation citing his political responsibility.
Morsy, and the defence and health ministers all visited hospitals where the injured were being treated.
Morsy offered his condolences to the Egyptian people and said those responsible would be dealt with. “We will wait for the results of investigations and those responsible will be punished,” he added.
He later went to the presidential palace where he met Qandil and Minister of Transport Hatem Abdel Latif to discuss “ways to stop the spilling of Egyptian blood,” according to a presidency statement.
The Muslim Brotherhood also expressed its sorrow at the accident.
“The Muslim Brotherhood offers its deep condolences to the families of the martyrs and the injured. The frequency of these accidents and the continuation of Egyptian bloodshed drives us to call on officials to cooperate and conduct investigations into the accidents and punish those responsible,” the group said in a statement.
The Brotherhood’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, also released a statement through its chairman Saad El-Katatny.
El-Katatny called the incident “tragic” and added that it was “a wakeup call to all political forces over the priority of overcoming differences and cooperating together in order to start building.”
The FJP leader blamed “years of Mubarak corruption” for the “decay of Egypt’s infrastructure” which led to the accident and several others.
He added that the “Egyptian people deserve hard work and achievements not [political] arguments and conflicts.”
The National Salvation Front, the largest opposition bloc, said the accident and the Assiut train crash that killed over 50 children last November both affirmed the need for Morsy and his government to re-evaluate their priorities.
“The January 25 Revolution happened in order to serve the interests of citizens and affirm the state’s responsibility in serving their needs, especially the majority of Egyptians who are poor,” said an NSF statement.
They added that there had been six train accidents since Morsy’s inauguration and that this should prompt him to make railway reform a pressing priority.
The front sent a delegation led by Egyptian Social Democratic Party leader Mohamed Abu El-Ghar and National Association for Change leader Abdel Geliel Mostafa to offer condolences to the families of the victims and affirm the need for taking the necessary steps in order to prevent such incidents from occurring again.