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Dramatic row in Egypt's parliament over police use of birdshot in deadly clashes

A raucous debate erupted in parliament between some Islamist MPs and liberals over whether or not the police were using birdshot against thousands protesting the Port Said football stadium massacre

Sherif Tarek , Monday 6 Feb 2012
Mohamed Abou Hamad
Mohamed Abu Hamed holding high a birdshot canister (Photo: TV)
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Views: 5936

On the agenda in Monday's parliamentary session was  the ongoing shortage of butane gas cylinders, on which many households depend.

Many parliamentarians, however, spent quite some time talking about the ongoing clashes in downtown Cairo before returning to the original subject of discussion.

The parliamentary speaker Saad El-Katatni of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) allowed the discussion to deviate from the agenda on the request of a number of MPs who thought it was of the utmost importance to discuss the ongoing turmoil in Cairo's downtown.

Tensions escalated particularly after El-Katatni stated that police forces had not used birdshot while confronting protesters. He said that this is what he had been told by Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim.

Upon hearing the statement, parliamentarian Mohamed Abu Hamed, vice president of the liberal Free Egyptians Party stood up and held aloft a birdshot canister that is believed to have been collected from the site of the clashes. The young lawyer was opposed by many of his fellow MPs.

When he got the chance to speak, Abu Hamed said: "The clashes are between the interior ministry and revolutionaries, but we only spoke to one side and ignored the other. That is not fair."

Other parliamentarians suggested the birdshot canister was not in fact collected from the streets where clashes have occurred and should be considered false evidence. In startling scenes, another MP tried to snatch the cannister by force from Abu Hamed later in the session.

Independent Mostafa Bakri had earlier blamed a "hidden party" for stirring up chaos. He elaborated by saying that former presidential hopeful, Mohamed ElBaradei, had incited the ongoing protests near the interior ministry's headquarters.

Ahmed Gebril from the Salafist Nour Party said the "fall of the interior ministry means the fall of the whole community."

Another Salafist MP Rizk Mohamed Hasaan stated, "these are not the same revolutionaries of the January 25 Revolution, these are a bunch of thugs who get paid LE200 a day as well as receiving two meals."

Others blamed the media for adding fuel to the fire through spreading rumors on the recurring clashes.

Prominent female activist Salma Said, 26, sustained birdshot injuries to her face and throughout her body on Sunday evening. The photos of her injuries and the x-rays were widely circulated on social media on Sunday and Monday. Around one hundred protesters were reported injured on Sunday night as police forces tried to evacuate the streets near the Ministry of Interior.

By dawn on Monday, Ahmed Kenawy, a 21-year-old, was pronounced dead after succumbing to lethal injuries to his neck and chest, also caused by birdshot, according to deputy health minister Hisham Shiha.

Confrontations near the interior ministry's headquarters broke out on Thursday night, a day after the Port Said disaster, which saw 74 football spectators killed in the aftermath of a league game, took place.

Many Egyptians have blamed the security forces for either allowing the disaster to happen or for masterminding it.

At least eight protesters have been killed in Cairo, five in Suez, and hundreds injured since clashes started. Meanwhile, the Ministry of the Interior has not yet made public the number of police officers who were also injured in the last five days.

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