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Riad's fact-finding committee on bloody events of last summer promises accuracy

The fact-finding committee was formed last December by a decree from then-interim president Adly Mansour

Gamal Essam El-Din , Sunday 28 Sep 2014
Rabaa
File Photo: Egyptian security forces inspect the sit-in camp set up by supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in Nasr City (Photo: AP)
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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."‎

 

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