yCAIRO: A People’s Assembly (PA) fact-finding committee recommended that Egypt’s interior minister be sacked after holding him responsible for the deadly violence against protesters near the ministry over the past few days.
The committee also demanded that the ministry be reformed and restructured as well as relocate its headquarters.
At least 13 were confirmed dead in clashes outside the interior ministry in Cairo and the security directorate in Suez, following protests against the killing of 74 football fans in Port Said on Feb. 1.
Speaking in parliament, Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim denied the use of birdshots by the police, which was refuted by the committee’s report.
Ingi Hamdy, member of the political bureau of the April 6 youth movement which participated in the protests, said that this wasn’t enough.
"We want the whole government to be sacked not just the interior minister," Hamdy told Daily News Egypt.
The five-member committee held an investigation on Monday from 1:45 pm until 11 pm, where they interviewed protesters and residents in streets surrounding the interior ministry and met with the injured on both sides in different hospitals and makeshift hospitals in downtown Cairo.
The five members included Mohamed Abou Hamed, Abbas Mekheimar, Osama Yassine, Hatem Azzam and Sherif Zahran.
The committee recommended that the interior ministry be relocated to prevent the suffering of the residents and shop owners in the heart of Downtown Cairo, who have witnessed several clashes since the 18-day revolt which toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
It also called for the purging and restructuring of the ministry, the immediate halt of violence on part of security forces, maintaining the peaceful nature of demonstrations and issuing legislation to guarantee the right to peaceful protests and sit-in. It also called upon protesters to leave the area surrounding the ministry and return to Tahrir Square in order to make it easier to differentiate between "peaceful" protesters and "thugs."
Twenty members of the police force were shot with birdshots, according to the report issued by the fact-finding committee, while eight protesters were being treated in Qasr El-Einy hospital on Monday after being shot in the eyes and chest with birdshots. The total number of protesters injured by birdshot couldn’t be determined by the committee.
The committee listed the names of those found dead in hospitals as a result of live ammunition and birdshots, citing cases from Suez and Cairo.
The intensity of the clashes relatively decreased as security forces put up cement walls closing off the streets leading to the interior ministry on Sunday. Eyewitnesses said police fired teargas and birdshots intermittently at protesters on Sunday and Monday, reaching as far as Bab El-Louq Street.
The interior minister described to the PA how the situation escalated over the past six days. He said police fired teargas after some 8,000 protesters surrounded the ministry Thursday evening. While they were 15 meters away from its walls, he said he got information that they would attack.
Ibrahim denied that police forces used birdshots claiming that one of his generals lost sight in one of his eyes while on his duty. He added that security forces only used tear gas to defend their headquarters and keep protesters at bay.
He said that 243 members of the police force were injured in the clashes, while 384 civilians were injured. The Ministry of Health said over 2,000 civilians were injured.
A total of 243 have been detained for igniting the clashes, including 13 who have been released, according to Ibrahim. He said those arrested were found carrying a range of objects, including Molotov cocktails, metal chains, drugs, knives, masks, helmets, fireworks, a laptop and one had an official stamp from the tax department, which the interior ministry claimed was burned down by protesters.
The minister also listed several incidents of violence near security directorates and police stations across Egypt, insinuating that the attack was organized to start at the same time in several governorates.
Clashes broke out in several governorates on Thursday between security forces and protesters including Suez, Alexandria, Daqahleya, Minya and North Sinai.
The MPs condemned Ibrahim’s statement saying that if there’s a third party plotting to cause more bloodshed, it was his responsibility to find this party and hold it accountable.
"We all know there’s a conspiracy [against the revolution]. We want to know who’s responsible for it and why they haven’t been detained until now," questioned MP and leader of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) Essam El-Erian.
“We refuse to trade security with freedom,” he added.
MP Ziad El-Eleimy slammed the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), holding the generals responsible for igniting the clashes, in response to mass protests calling on SCAF to hand over power immediately to a civilian authority.
He called on the PA to summon head of SCAF, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, as well as Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzoury to be interrogated at the PA, as a first step for withdrawing confidence from both.
Ahmed Saeid, MP representing the Free Egyptians Party, echoed El-Eleimy’s request, demanding that the PA should go directly to the head of the state, the SCAF, to get its members to explain their security strategy.
However, Raafat Fouda, constitutional law professor at Cairo University, told DNE summoning Tantawi was unconstitutional and not within the responsibilities of the PA.
"The PA monitors the government not the president," he said.
Tantawi is the defense minister, but in his capacity as the head of the SCAF, he is the de facto head of state.
Around six MPs held a sit-in in the parliament on Monday, demanding an end to the "bloodshed" near the interior ministry.
The MPs Basel Adel and Hamdy El-Fakharany criticized the PA speaker Saad El-Katatny for forcing them to spend the night on the sidewalk instead of inside the PA.
El-Katatny stressed that he respected the MPs rights to hold a sit-in in the parliament, but he gave orders to security to prevent them from returning to the PA once they left the premises for security reasons.
"I went out of the PA to buy water and medicine but security wouldn’t let me back in," said El-Fakharany.
Other MPs slammed those who held the sit-in, saying that they undermined the PA. Accusations flared as El-Katatny struggled to keep order throughout the session.
At the beginning of the session, the head of the Cassation Court, Mohamed El-Gheryani sent a message to the PA, condemning their public discussions of the trial of ousted president Hosni Mubarak and his aides, particularly their description of it as a “farce.”
El-Gheryani stressed the importance of the independence of the judiciary and the integrity of the judges. He also pointed out the Prosecutor General was immune against MPs calls for removing him, according to the law.
El-Katatny responded saying that the PA respected the judiciary and its independence, while the MPs statements were opinions that he couldn’t withhold.
Mazen Hassan, professor of electoral systems in Cairo University, said that according to the constitution, the integrity and progress of the trial shouldn’t be discussed in the PA.
"The judge’s final verdict could be influenced by these discussions," he said.
A boy holds empty bullet casings during a lull in clashes with riot policemen near the interior ministry in downtown Cairo on Feb. 4, 2012. Afp Photo/Mahmud Hams