By Heba Fahmy
CAIRO: The events of Oct. 9 were a full-fledged conspiracy led by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to kill peaceful protesters, Muslims and Christians, according to a statement released Thursday by 29 political powers and public figures at a press conference Thursday.
“SCAF faced the peaceful march with live ammunition and armored trucks that ran over Egyptian citizens in a massacre that saw unprecedented violence,” the statement read.
The political powers called for trying all those involved in the Maspero massacre, including the chief of military police General Hamdy Badin, Minister of Information Osama Heikal and the Governor of Aswan, Mostafa Al-Sayed.
They also called for cleansing state media and canceling the Ministry of Information, in addition to heeding to the Copts’ demands and issuing a unified houses of worship law.
The political powers and public figures included the Coalition of the Revolutionary Youth, the April 6 Youth Movement, the Democratic Labor and the Free Egyptian parties, in addition to actor Amr Waked and business tycoon Naguib Sawiris.
During the conference, a video was played showing armored trucks driven by armed military police running over protesters.
In one clip, a military officer is riding a public bus following the clashes, telling the people surrounding the bus, “I shot one of them with three bullets” as the crowd cheered and applauded him.
Several eye-witnesses backed the statement and recounted the bloody clashes at the conference.
“Once we entered the street near Ramses Hilton heading towards Maspero, we were faced with bullets, rocks, armored vehicles and tear gas,” said Mary Daniel, sister of activist Mina, 25, who died in the clashes.
“The scene was more than horrific,” she added.
Lobna Darwish, 25, said the march from Shubra started out with families, including children and grandfathers raising crosses.
When it approached Maspero, Darwish recalled, a row of riot police charged at the protesters and started beating them. First the riot police were firing in the air and then they started firing at the people, she said.
Darwish added that she saw four armored trucks deliberately run over people.
“At first when I saw the first tuck, I thought it was an individual case of a military officer who went crazy,” she said. “But there were four armored personel carriers [APCs] running over the people again and again.”
In a press conference Wednesday, the ruling military council denied that army forces used live ammunition against the Maspero protesters on Sunday, or that personnel intentionally used armored vehicles to run over civilians.
The council neither confirmed nor denied whether the army vehicles that crushed protesters were in fact driven by army personnel or civilians who got hold of the APCs.
Khaled Aly, member of the Egyptian Center for Social and Economic Rights, slammed the army’s statements.
“The army never protected our revolution,” Aly said. “Who attacked the revolutionaries on March 9 and April 9 in Tahrir Square? Who killed Mina Daniel?”
The military police cracked down on protesters in Tahrir Square on March 9 and April 9, and were accused of torturing those detained in the Egyptian museum and forcing female protesters to undergo virginity tests when they were temporariy held in military prison.
Aly said that fire trucks washed the streets in front of Maspero of all the evidence at 4 am Monday only hours after the deadly violence.
Aly questioned the role of the Prosecutor General and demanded that the case not be investigated by the military prosecution.
Magda Adly, a doctor at Nadim Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, echoed Aly’s sentiment, saying a “neutral committee needs to investigate the incident, not the military council because the council is involved in the clashes.”
Adly, who witnessed the autopsies of some of the victims, said that at least seven died of gunshot wounds while 10 were run over by very heavy objects.
“We couldn’t find the bullets inside the [victims’] bodies,” Adly said.
Three of the bodies Adly saw suffered fractured ribs.
Adly added that there were reports that some of the bodies were thrown in the Nile by riot police and military forces. A complaint was filed to the Prosecutor General to search for these bodies.
Manal Khaled, an employee at the state TV building said that military police informed the employees to leave the building by 2 pm, because the building would be closed as a precaution against mass protests expected to be held by armed Copts later in the day.
“They told us that armed Copts would come to the TV building and [violent clashes] would erupt,” she said.
Khaled left the building at 4 pm and said she saw a small group of “peaceful, unarmed,” Coptic protesters, calling for the rights to build churches.
Later in the evening, Khaled headed towards Maspero again after hearing about the clashes.
She saw injured military officers entering Maspero for first aid, but added that the medical department at Maspero wasn’t equipped to deal with any serious injuries.
“I can only assume that the military officers had mild injuries, otherwise they would’ve been referred to an equipped hospital or they were just putting on a show,” she said.
One of Khaled’s colleagues told her that riot police wouldn’t let him leave the building at 6 pm, saying that they had orders to fire on protesters.
Khaled also saw a group of ultra conservative Muslims, shouting “Islamic, Islamic” and holding clubs on Galaa Street near Maspero.
“One of them stopped me and asked whether I was a Muslim or a Christian,” she said.
Amr Ghoneim, a Muslim who participated in the march, also said that a group of conservative Muslims appeared near Maspero saying that they were informed by interior ministry officers that Copts were burning copies of the Quran in front of Maspero.
“We had to convince them that we were Muslims and get them to listen to us,” he said.
The witnesses said that they were attacked with rocks under Shoubra bridge, but weren’t sure where the attacks came from.
“Until when will Egypt continue to suck the blood of its [own] children?” Daniel asked. “Mina dreamed of the day where he would see Egypt beautiful and free.”