Interior ministry clashes in Feb were the most brutal, say lawyers

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By Mai Shams El-Din

CAIRO: The detention and treatment of those arrested in relation to the ministry of interior clashes last month showed the worst in human rights violations, rights lawyers said Thursday, specifically pointing to high rate of abuse of minors.

“These clashes are the toughest, with the highest rates of human rights abuses against the protesters. We haven’t seen this in the Cabinet clashes or Mohamed Mahmoud,” lawyer Ahmed Hassan said, referring to deadly crackdowns on protesters in December and November respectively.

The clashes started on Feb. 2 when thousands marched towards the Ministry of Interior to protest what they deemed its complicity in the Port Said massacre, which left more than 70 dead and hundreds injured.

The lawyers representing the Front to Defend Egypt’s Protesters said in a press conference Thursday that the clashes left 11 dead, 100 with eye injuries, 700 wounded and 3,500 cases of tear gas suffocations.

Hassan added that 231 protesters were arrested with charges of rioting and attempting to break into the ministry, as prosecution released 94 without bail.

“Most of the protesters were heavily beaten during their detention and after their referral to Tora Prison. The prosecution refused to call the ambulances to tend to the heavily injured detainees,” lawyer Ahmed Abdel Nabi said.

“There were two blind citizens and another mentally disabled citizen among the arrested protesters, in addition to two soldiers from the army and the police, all were subjected to citizen arrests,” Abdel Nabi said, adding that the identity of those arrested shows the randomness of the process.

Lawyers said the arrest and torture of children marked the most brutal practices by the police forces, judges and prosecution.

“Sixty-one children were arrested in these clashes, including street children,” said lawyer Ahmed Meselhy, from the Egyptian Coalition for Children’s Rights.

“Fifty-two were released and nine remain in custody. Those nine are students not street children,” he said, adding that street children were abused in this case.

“Street children were used in the case which they are not part of. Tahrir Square provided to them what state institutions failed to provide,” he said.

Meselhy said that children were arrested and interrogated by general prosecution in violation of the Child Law, which stipulates that children are only interrogated by juvenile prosecution and only referred to juvenile courts.

“Arresting them in the first place is a violation,” Meselhy said.

“They were detained in the same place with adults, and were subjected to torture and beatings just like adults, which is all illegal,” he added.

Meselhy said the children were threatened by other criminal prisoners with severe punishments if they did not give them money and cigarettes.

“The kids told us and their families while visiting them that they receive constant threats. This is a crime in itself,” he said.

Meselhy said that a complaint was filed at the Prosecutor General to release the children but were ignored.

“In these clashes, we have seen a conspiracy by the three authorities of the state: the legislative, the judiciary and the executive,” lawyer Mohamed Abdel Aziz said.

“Protesters were described as thugs by parliament members, while the judiciary and the prosecution were silent about the torture and the arrest of children, and the executive authority represented in the Ministry of Interior committed all the violations,” he said.

The lawyer attended a meeting for the parliament’s committee of human rights addressing this case and was promised a solution.

“Nothing happened of course,” Abdel Aziz said.

The press conference featured Mohamed Eid, senior graphic designer who lost his eye during the clashes.

“I was trying, with some of my friends, to reach a truce between the protesters and police. I talked to a police officer and told him we are not thugs and asked him why they are beating us,” Eid recounted.

“He smiled and did not answer. Then I turned my back to him and was talking to my friends when the truce was surprisingly broken by the police. I faced the same officer to find him using his pellet gun and deliberately shooting me in the eye,” Eid said, adding that he had undergone two surgeries to no avail.


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