A national independent fact-finding committee formed last December says it has made a lot of progress towards finalising a report on the bloody events that took place during and following the removal of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.
According to the committee's chairman Fouad Abdel-Moneim Riad, the interior ministry and the army have, in recent weeks, provided the committee with valuable and accurate information about the events which occurred in Egypt after former president Mohamed Morsi was removed from office in July 2013.
The fact-finding committee was formed last December by a decree from then-interim president Adly Mansour and was supposed to have presented its final report within six months of its formation, but instead demanded a three month extension followed by another two months.
"The evidence we received from the interior ministry in recent weeks on the events came in the form of 830 files of photos and 381 video films recording the bloody disruption of the Muslim Brotherhood's sit-ins at Rabaa Al-Adawiya in east Cairo and Al-Nahda in west Cairo," said Riad. He added that "Technical experts who examined these documents and files agree that they shed light on the controversial Rabaa Al-Adawiya events, showing almost exactly how the bloody clashes erupted and who began the shooting," said Riad.
As for the defence ministry, Riad said "its officials indicated that they gave prosecution authorities all of their documents and video recordings on the attack at the Republican Guard headquarters in Heliopolis on 8 July 2013."
Riad, in statements to parliamentary reporters, said "the wealth of evidence and date we have will help a lot in uncovering how these bloody events erupted and what the exact numbers of victims is."
“We know that some foreign organisations, especially the New York-based Human Rights Watch, have issued reports on these events, but let me say that these reports failed to reflect the true reality of what happened on the ground, not to mention that they were one-sided," said Riad.
Joining forces, the committee's spokesperson Omar Marwan charged that HRW report is biased and unbalanced "because all the testimonies and documents it contains came from one source – the Muslim Brotherhood."
"We asked HRW and Amnesty International to provide us with the documents they claim they had received about the disruption of sit-ins in Cairo and Giza but they never gave us a response," said Marwan. Marwan added that the "HWR report is being revised by the committee to verify its contents and to see whether it is aligned with or differs from reports and documents provided by the army and interior ministry."
In general, Marwan indicated that "the documents provided by the army and interior ministry will strike a balance, helping to produce a more objective and accurate report more which is by no means one-sided like the one made by HRW."
Riad also disclosed that Hazem El-Beblawi – the liberal economist who served as the prime minister to the first interim government – testified before the court. "Two senior interior ministry officials who were primarily responsible for the dispersal operation also testified," said Riad.
Riad, however, explained that former president Adly Mansour did not testify before the committee, stating that "the dispersal was mainly a cabinet decision that Mansour was not a part of," said Riad.
Riad is a prominent Egyptian lawyer and former international judge on a war crimes tribunal. The committee is also composed of Egypt's former ambassador to the US Abdel-Raouf Al-Ridi, and international law professors Hazem Allam, Mohamed Badran, and Iskandar Ghattas.
Riad said the scope of the committee's job had widened to include other events such as violent clashes between police forces and Muslim Brotherhood students in a number of Egyptian universities last year and the torching of a large of number of Egyptian churches in upper Egypt in August 2013 right after the dispersal of the sit-ins.
Riad indicated that a lot of Coptic organisations have closely cooperated with the committee, providing it with a wealth of information and documents.
"As a result, we asked President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to extend our work two months or at least to the end of November because we need this period of time to finish our job and produce an objective report," said Riad.
Riad explained that "the two-month extension also aims to give a new opportunity to Muslim Brotherhood leaders to come to the committee and testify on controversial events like the dispersal of the sit-ins."
"As a matter of fact," Riad said, "most of the leaders of Muslim Brotherhood who are now in jail refused to testify before the committee upon grounds that it is biased and only aims to polish the image of the new military regime in Egypt, opting instead to talk with foreign organisations like Human Rights Watch and others."
Mohamed Ali Bishr, a leading Brotherhood official and former local development minister, said he reneged on his decision to testify before the committee two weeks ago because he was highly skeptical of its intentions. "Although I received an invitation from Riad to testify and I said I would, I decided not to go at the last minute because the committee's statements showed they were by no means neutral and that my testimony could be exploited for political interests," said Bishr.
Riad strongly refuted claims that the committee is biased, emphasising that it aims to seek the truth. "This is why we took a long time to prepare our report because we want to listen to all parties of the conflict," said Riad.
Riad criticised Brotherhood leaders for refusing to testify before the committee. "Maybe they have fears that their testimonies could turn out to be false, but if they feel they have strong evidence against the army and interior ministry then why wouldn’t they come talk to us," he Riad.
Riad said he sent letters to Human Rights Watch, asking it to send him copies of Muslim Brotherhood testimonies so that they could be revised. "We also asked the foreign ministry to ask Egyptian embassies abroad to do their best to contact Brotherhood officials in foreign countries, trying to convince them of sending written testimonies to the committee," said Riad.
Riad's statement, however, comes amid reports that Egypt has asked governments to extradite a number of Brotherhood officials living in Turkey and in a number of European capitals upon grounds that they face criminal charges in Egypt.
Riad also indicated that the committee's job had expanded to include the terrorist acts which have hit the Sinai Peninsula since the ouster of Morsi. "The defence and interior ministries have also provided us with official documents about the battle against terrorist organisations there and the number of police and army soldiers and officers killed," said Riad. The lawyer revealed that a public figure located in Sinai is providing the committee with all the information it needs about events there on a regular basis."
Riad added that he has "high hopes that contacts with this public figure will help solve problems facing the citizens of Sinai who have complained that the battle against militant Jihadists has hit them hard."