11/03/2011, 00.00
EGYPT

Army absolved of responsibility in massacre of Coptic demonstrators

This is the conclusion of an investigation by the government-sponsored National Council for Human Rights. Outside elements that infiltrated the demonstration organised by Coptic activists were responsible for the 28 deaths and hundreds of wounded. The reference to a third party is used to “whitewash the military,” a spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church said.
Cairo (AsiaNews) – The Egyptian army did not fire on Coptic demonstrators on 9 October during clashes that left 28 people dead, this according to National Council for Human Rights (NCHR). In a report released today, the council absolved the military of all responsibility in shooting against the crowd. According to the investigators, none of the bullets found in the square in front of the state TV building were issued to soldiers. Unidentified outside groups instead fired on protesters. The report does not mention the people deliberatively run over by military vehicles. Abu Saeda, a member of the NCHR, said an independent commission of inquiry would be set shortly to shed light on what happened.

“They used the definition of a third party in order to whitewash the military,” Fr Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church, told AsiaNews. This is a usual reference to criminal groups tied to the old regime and businessmen opposed to military power.

“People do not agree very much with the document,” he added. “There is an impression that the military did not provide security to the demonstrators.”

The problem could be swept under carpet, the clergyman noted. At present, all political parties are busy preparing for the 28 November elections. At the same time, the military is trying to enhance its stature and maintain a consensus in the country.

For various rights ctivists, the report lacks details.

"They should have mentioned the kinds of bullets that were in the bodies of the victims as that would be an indicator of what kind of weapon was used," said Gamal Eid, director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information.

The NCHR is close to the government, he noted, both during the Mubarak regime and now under the current military government. Its investigation lacks credibility.
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