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Egypt MPs stage sit-in, threaten hunger strike

MPs begin sit-in outside parliament to condemn police violence during interior ministry clashes and threaten hunger strike 'unless police cease fire'

Ahram Online, Tuesday 7 Feb 2012
The People
Archive photo of the People's Assembly, the lower house of Egypt's parliament (Photo: Al-Ahram)
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Following a raucous session of Egypt's parliament Monday, a group of MPs have begun a sit-in outside the parliament building and have vowed to begin a hunger strike Tuesday unless police forces cease their assaults on protesters near the Ministry of Interior in downtown Cairo.

The MPs were angered by allegations made in parliament that protesters were "thugs" and "US agents" and that security forces had not used birdshot during the fighting.

At least ten people have died in Cairo since Thursday during anti-police protests. Demonstrators took to the streets following Port Said's football disaster, which left 74 dead Wednesday evening. The passive response of security forces during the stadium invasion and subsequent violence has drawn heavy criticism and anger by protesters and politicians alike. In Suez, five protesters were also killed in bloody clashes with police and security forices.

The five MPs taking part in the sit-in are: Ziad El-Eleimy (Egyptian Bloc), Mohamed Shabana (Revolution Continues), Hamdy El-Fakharani (Democratic Front), Attef Magawry (Tagammu Party) and Naser El-Din El-Zoghaby (Socialist Popular Alliance Party).

The seven additional MPs who expressed solidarity with the sit-in but are not taking part are:  Amr Hamzawy (independent), Mohamed Abu Hamed (Free Egyptian Party), Ahmed Said (Free Egyptian Party), Bassem Kamel (Democratic Egyptian Party), Khaled Abdel Aziz (Tagammu Party), Mostafa El-Guindy (Revolution Continues) and Mohamed Abdel Monem El-Sawy (Hadara Party).

The 12 MPs issued a joint statement late Monday announcing their "rejection of the police's continuous use of birdshot against protesters."

Tensions in the chamber escalated when parliament's speaker, Saad El-Katatni of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), stated that police had not used birdshot against protesters.

Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim had informed him of this, he said.

One of the protesting MPs, Abu Hamed, held aloft a birdshot canister believed to have orginated from the site of the clash. The young lawyer was, however, shouted down by other MPs, mostly from the Islamic current.

The twelve MP's also called for a People's Assembly committee to oversee reform of the Ministry of Interior.

Confrontations near the interior ministry's building broke out on Thursday night, a day after the Port Said disaster.

Many Egyptians blame security forces for failing to prevent the disaster or instigating it in advance.

While claiming that police officers were also injured in the stadium violnce, the interior ministry is yet to release any official tally.

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