By Heba Hesham
CAIRO: Representatives of political powers condemned Sunday the crackdown on a cabinet sit-in which left 10 dead and almost 500 injured, including some 58 central security forces.
The violent exchange of rocks and Molotovs, say politicians, have dragged the army into an uncalculated battle against citizens.
“The army shouldn’t be dragged into such clashes with the people. It isn’t appropriate for its image,” said Nabil Zaki, spokesman of the leftist Al-Tagammu
Yousri Hammad, spokesman of the Salafi Al-Nour party agreed.
“This will have dangerous consequences on the status of the army in the transitional period,” said Essam Sheha, legal expert and member of the high committee of Al-Wafd Party.
The Revolution Continues Alliance deemed the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) responsible for the “brutal clashes” that occurred on Friday and Saturday around Cabinet, according to a statement the coalition of youth groups issued on Saturday.
“Embroiling the army in such uncalculated battles against the people is an adventure that will degrade the military institution, shake its image and threaten its stability which threatens the Egyptian state in light of these continuing adventures,” said the statement.
According to Egypt’s official Middle East News Agency (MENA), the People’s Coalition Party, which is part of the alliance, called for an immediate investigation into the events of Nov. 19 at Mohamed Mahmoud Street, and those of Dec. 16 by a neutral judicial body that should announce the results of the investigation in complete transparency and to try those proven responsible for the clashes, no matter who they are.
“We demand a neutral investigation into the clashes. But the problem is that we never know the results of these investigations,” said Tarek Al-Malt, spokesman of Al-Wasat Party.
Sheha said that since the bloody clashes in Maspero between mostly Coptic protesters and security forces, no person involved in a “conspiracy against Egypt,” as SCAF says, has been arrested.
“SCAF is in power so they should identify the third party they claim is responsible for the repetitive violence,” said Al-Malt, pointing out that the remnants of the former regime are experts at utilizing thugs to settle political scores.
Essam Sultan, vice chairman of Al-Wasat Party, said in a statement that those responsible for the crimes will pay dearly for the killing and wounding dozens of people, in violence that may have already exceeded that perpetrated by the Mubarak regime.
Sultan says that Al-Wasat believes that these events betray a deliberate intention to abort the Jan. 25 revolution and to undermine its demands, stressing that the ruling body will fail to do so.
“We are convinced that there are some outsiders seeking to ignite a conflict, it is not possible that the youth who were in Tahrir Square during the peaceful uprising have wreaked all this havoc,” Al-Nour’s Hammad said.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) called upon all concerned parties to shoulder their national and historical responsibilities and work on an immediate end to this violence which could lead to a replay of the bloody clashes in Mohamed Mahmoud Street on Nov. 19-24.
“The party sees this as an attempt to distract attention away from the electoral process which reflects the desire of the Egyptian people to move steadily towards democratic transformation through the ballot box,” said a statement by the FJP.
Zaki, however, believes that the ongoing parliamentary elections have nothing to do with the clashes.
“I believe the youth felt that the revolution is being stolen away from them and the SCAF want to assert its status, that’s why the clashes erupted,” he said.
Al-Malt believes that the clashes reflect a conflict within the highest authorities.
“Some want a peaceful transition of power to an elected parliament and president while others are afraid and want SCAF to stay in power. Even though El-Ganzoury’s Cabinet doesn’t exist on the political stage, it is equally responsible as SCAF for the events,” he said.
Hammad added that some are exploiting this chaos and are the ones responsible for setting the Egyptian Scientific Complex, an antique building housing thousands of ancient manuscripts.
According to state-run Al-Ahram newspaper, Zein Abdel Hady, president of Egypt’s National Library, announced that the original copy of the “Le Description de L’Egypt” was burnt to ashes.
Abdel Hady said that volunteers managed to save about 30,000 of 196,000 rare manuscripts.
Sheha believes that both SCAF and the government mismanaged the crisis.
“The events went on for 18 hours without a single statement from any of them,” he said. “Even though there were clear indications that the complex which holds Egypt’s history was in grave danger, none of them moved which might lead international cultural organizations to interfere in Egypt’s internal affairs,” he said.
SCAF issued a video Saturday on its official Facebook page accompanied by statement No. 90 highlighting the importance of communication with the Egyptian people and the revolutionary youth.
In the statement, SCAF affirmed the right of the council to defend public and private property, which it has sworn to protect.
The statement explained that the video depicts the plot carried out against Egypt.
The video is a recording by the army of people lobbing rocks and Molotovs on the Cabinet building and chanting against military rule.
“SCAF will post more videos to clarify the facts to the public,” the statement said.
Sheha believes the statement came too late.
“We have already seen such scenes before being displayed by SCAF. Instead, they should have told us that these people have been arrested, investigated and that they arrested those responsible for the plot against Egypt,” he said, adding that if they don’t have enough information they can make use of the many videos and pictures broadcast on satellite channels.
The General Prosecution ordered Saturday the detention of 157 defendants for 4 days pending investigation into the events of Qasr Al-Aini Street in the vicinity of Cabinet and People’s Assembly buildings.
The defendants are charged with resisting the authorities, illegal association, setting fire to government buildings, intentionally damaging public and private property and vehicles and the acquisition and possession of explosives.