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Egypt: new wave of abuses condemned

Amnesty International is warning against a crackdown on supporters of Mohamed Morsi after documenting a new wave of arrests of Muslim Brotherhood leaders, raids on media and an incident in which a protester was killed by army live fire.

Since former President Morsi was deposed on Wednesday, Amnesty has spoken to eyewitnesses who were fired on by the army in a street near Rabaa Aladaweya Square in Cairo’s Nasr City that evening. Live ammunition was used on the pro-Morsi protest, and at least one demonstrator was killed.

Meanwhile, at least two leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been imprisoned amid reports of further arrests - of Deputy Leader Rashad Bayoumi and Saad El-Katatni, the Chair of the group’s Freedom and Justice Party. Amnesty is urging the authorities to either charge them with an internationally recognisable criminal offence, or release them. Meanwhile, at least two people are still detained after the police raided television studios sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood on 3 July, taking the channels off-air and arresting staff.

Egypt’s Ministry of Health today announced that the political violence since 28 June had left 52 dead and over 2,619 injured. Amnesty is calling for an independent and impartial investigation into the events.

Commenting amid reports that more pro-Morsi protesters were shot today as they marched on the headquarters of the Republican Guard in Cairo. Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said:

“We fear that the violence of the last few days could spiral into a new wave of human rights abuses.

“It also resurrects fears of the army’s abysmal record on human rights.

“It is hard to see evidence of the Egyptian authorities’ respect for freedom of assembly and expression when soldiers have shot a protester in the head who apparently posed no threat.

“The army and security forces must immediately stop using live ammunition against people posing no threat to life.”

At around 3pm on 3 July, the military and riot police (Central Security Forces or CSF) were deployed in Rabaa Aladaweya Square, the site of a protest by the former President’s supporters. The military and riot police secured the main entry points to the square.

Eyewitness told Amnesty that the army first tried to disperse the protests by shooting in the air and sending armoured personnel carriers in the direction of the protest, but they were stopped by the protesters. One man later interviewed by Amnesty in hospital said his legs were broken after an altercation with an army officer in which he fell from a military vehicle and was not able to go to hospital for two hours as the army had sealed the square.

Subsequently, the army shot live ammunition both into the air and at the protesters. A 20-year old protester died after being shot in the head, and at least three others were injured. An eyewitness told Amnesty that at the time of the shooting he saw snipers on the roof of the military compound. One of the injured, who was shot in the arm, told Amnesty he’d been shot while he’d been standing in the middle of the road, far from the gate of the military compound. He said the army had been shooting randomly, and that he had seen the army shoot one person on the other side of the street in the head. Another eyewitness, who was shot in the leg, told Amnesty that he’d been shot while standing outside the gate to the military compound. He said that the army started to shoot randomly from inside the compound.

When Amnesty visited the site the next morning, it saw blood in the street, much of it in front of the gate of the military compound. Amnesty also saw holes caused by shotgun pellets in street-light poles in the street where people had been shot.

Immediately after the army announced it had deposed President Morsi, at least six stations were take off the air, including Hafez, Al Jazeera Mubasher, Al-Khalijia, Misr 25, Al-Nas, and Al-Rahma, all known for their support of Mohamed Morsi. Minutes later, security forces launched raids on the channels. Eyewitnesses told Amnesty that police, special forces and plainclothes intelligence officers rounded up the staff and held them in police vehicles.

Though the security forces subsequently released most of the media workers, they took at least 14 men away and held them in the Security Directorate in 6 October City. The Directorate then told visiting relatives and others that they were not holding them.  Members of Al-Nas are reported to have been ill-treated in detention.

At time of writing all but two of the media workers have been released. Hafez Channel Head Atef Abdelrashid and al-Fath’s Administrative Director Abdallah Abdallah continue to be held, and the charges against them are unclear. Meanwhile, The Muslim Brotherhood Freedom and Justice Party’s newspaper has not been printed by the national press since 4 July.

Two leading Muslim Brotherhood figures have been arrested - Deputy Leader Rashad Bayoumi and Saad El-Katatni, the Chair of the FJP. Both are being held in Cairo’s Tora Prison. The group’s lawyer, Abdelminin Abdelmaqsoud, is also thought to have been detained after he went to attend interrogations at the prison.

The charges against them are as yet unclear and Amnesty has urged the authorities to promptly charge those arrested with an internationally recognisable criminal offence or release them. All those detained must be given access to their lawyers, families, and adequate medical care without delay.

State newspaper Al-Ahram has reported that the authorities have issued arrest warrants for 300 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, though the report is unverifiable. Former President Morsi himself is believed to be in the custody of the army.

In a statement posted on Facebook today, the army said it would not suppress political groups and would uphold the right to protest and freedom of expression of all Egyptians.

Yet under the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) following 2011’s “25 January Revolution”, the security forces - including the army - killed more than 120 protesters, military courts unfairly tried over 12,000 civilians, and the army arrested women protesters and subjected them to forced “virginity tests”.

During a meeting with Amnesty’s Secretary General in June 2011, the head of the army Abdel Fattah al-Sisi acknowledged that there was a need to change the culture of the security forces to stop violence against demonstrators and to protect detainees against ill-treatment. However, various announcements of promised investigations into alleged army abuses have since led to only flawed investigations, with military courts convicting just three low-ranking troops of killing protesters.

Note to editors:
Amnesty experts Diana Eltahawy and Mohamed Emissary are available for interview from Cairo. To arrange an interview with either, please contact them direct:

Diana Eltahawy: 07778 472100 (UK mobile), 00 20 1060 901 438 (Egypt mobile)

Mohamed Elmessiry: 07961 421568 (UK mobile), 00 20 1000 000 7872 (Egypt mobile)

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