CAIRO: The Supreme Military Court adjourned Tuesday the trial of three military soldiers accused of killing 14 protesters in the Maspero violence to Jan. 8.
The soldiers are accused of killing the protesters by running them over using Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) as they dispersed a mostly-Coptic protest last October, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) said in a statement.
“Military judiciary ignored 14 martyrs shot by live ammunition including martyr Mina Daniel and charged the three soldiers with manslaughter, which lacks the minimum level of guarantees for seriousness and justice in a fair trial,” EIPR said.
“It is a continuation of the trend of the ruling military council of denying any responsibility for the crime,” EIPR added.
EIPR accused the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) of protecting military police officers from criminal responsibility and referring the three soldiers to the military court even before the general prosecution finishes its investigation in the same case.
EIPR called on changing articles in the Military Judiciary Law to lift the protection of military officers who commit crimes against civilians and allow the general prosecution to question them.
The ruling military council denied in a press conference following the clashes that army forces used live ammunition against Maspero protesters, or that personnel intentionally used armored vehicles to run over civilians.
General Adel Emara said, “Soldiers driving armored vehicles were trying to avoid civilians who were throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at them.”
He also said they can neither confirm nor deny whether the army vehicles that crushed protesters were in fact driven by army personnel or civilians who got hold of the APCs. These issues were still under investigation, he said.
The general said that some of the protesters at Maspero used Molotov cocktails, gas canisters, swords and knives to attack the army.
Running over protesters cannot be described as “systematic,” he said, neither can it be attributed as an act by Egypt’s military.
Civilian detainees who were released pending investigation by an investigations judge over their alleged involvement in Maspero violence recounted their ordeal inside prison in a press conference Tuesday.
“I was randomly arrested one day after the clashes took place near Ramsis Railway Station as I was going back to Tanta where I live. I was asked about my name and once they saw that I have a Coptic name, they arrested me,” Abanoub Samir, one of the released detainees, who alleged he never participated in the Oct.9 march, said during the press conference.
“We were beaten and tortured and detained in very humiliating conditions until we were referred to an investigations judge who released us,” Samir added.
Maikel Fayez said that he was also arrested by citizens after the events in front of Maspero.
“I was driving by Maspero on my motorcycle on my way to work in Zamalek when I saw huge crowds. As soon as I approached to ask what’s going on, the mob asked me about my name,” Fayez said, adding that once they discovered he has a Coptic name, they beat him and handed him over to military police.
“I was then taken with others inside the Maspero building where I was beaten from 7 am until 3 pm. I was then taken to C28,” Fayez added.
The detainees, including prominent activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, were all referred to military prosecution, where Abdel Fattah refused to cooperate.
They were eventually referred to state security prosecution and finally to an investigations judge appointed by the general prosecution.
Priest Filopatuer, one of the priests organizing the march, stressed that targeting Copts through citizen arrests goes against the Egyptians’ tolerant nature.
“I would like to say that this was exceptional due to the negative campaigning done by the state-run television to cause a rift between Muslims and Copts,” he said, adding that this plan did not succeed thanks to the awareness and civilized nature of the Egyptian people.
Following a meeting with Pope Shenouda III in October, Egypt’s former information minister Osama Heikel said he promised not to repeat the “professional mistakes” that occurred in state TV’s coverage of the Masepro clashes.
Heikal, who initially defended the coverage, said the mistakes were the result of a “40-year heritage of corruption.”
“I won’t allow Egyptian TV to discriminate against citizens,” he added.
Mary Daniel, sister of martyr Mina Daniel who was shot dead during the clashes, said that SCAF aims to cause a rift between Egyptians.
“The armed forces did not discriminate between Muslims and Copts when we were beaten in front of the Cabinet building. SCAF lost its credibility,” she said.
Dr Mohamed El-Eiraky, former member of the National Justice Committee in Essam Sharaf’s Cabinet, said that October 9, when the clashes took place, was a turning point in the revolution.
“SCAF turned from an unbiased institution in the political scene to a main player in the political arena, and we have to search for a way to bring SCAF back to the original, unbiased role it used to play,” El-Eiraky said.
Prominent activist Abdel Fattah, who was met with thundering applause from the attendees, said that SCAF depended on intimidating the revolutionaries by attacking minorities like women and Copts.
“SCAF used the sectarian sentiment some people have against Copts and discrimination against women to target them, thinking that the revolution will die. SCAF does not understand us,” Abdel Fattah said.
He explained that targeting women in the crackdown on the Cabinet sit-in did not quell the revolution, but rather gave it a boost.
“In 2005, the sexual harassment of female journalists during the Kefaya movement protests made the movement gain more momentum,” he said, adding that the Maspero clashes were the reason behind ending military trials for civilians.
“I’m confident that by referring the case from military prosecution to an investigations judge, the case will be the last case of civilians tried in military courts,” he said.
“Our struggle will continue, and our role is not to get ourselves out of prison, but to refer the real criminals to courts,” he concluded.