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Sunday, 22 September 2019

Kin of killed in Maspero clashes wait for hours in heat to demand autopsies, accountability

Families of those killed during Sunday's violent clashes between protesters and the army not satisfied by hospital reports on causes of death, wait for hours to demand autopsies to determine who murdered their loved ones

Salma Shukrallah , Monday 10 Oct 2011
Victims of Maspero violence
A man grieves near the shrouded bodies of protesters killed during clashes with Egyptian security forces in Cairo Egypt, Sunday 9 October 2011. (Photo: AP)
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Thousands of angry Copts and political activists gathered in a side street near the Coptic Hospital near downton Cairo on Monday morning after bloody clashes took place between Egypt's military and thousands of demonstrators calling for equal rights for Copts at the Maspero state television building Sunday night.

Mourners and protesters planned a procession march alongside the coffins of those who were killed in the attack, from the hospital where corpses of dead demonstrators were being stored to the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Abbasiya a mile away, where prayers were to set take place.

As they waited, the demonstrators chanted slogans condemning Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and its field marshal Hussein Tantawi, who they held responsible for Sunday’s violence when military tanks were seen driving over Coptic demonstrators.

“Down with Tantawi,” the demonstrators repeated.

“Raise your hand up high, here is the Cross,” as lifted arms showed the cross, traditionally tattooed on the wrists of most Coptic Egyptians."

The sun’s strong heat led many people to take refuge under the trees on the pavements, including the families of the dead, who were waiting to receive hospital death certificates that would allow them to bury their relatives.

Wooden coffins decorated with golden crosses and carrying the names of their inhabitants continued to pour out of the hospital’s side door, where demonstrators and the mourning families waited.

Mothers in full black clothing sat beside their children's coffins, screaming and wailing.

Friends of leftist activist Mina Daniel who was among at least 25 killed Sunday, exchanged their opinions regarding statements that SCAF issued on Sunday, which demanded that public "protect" the military from the Coptic masses.

Daniel's friends condemned these statements as sectarian. Other demonstrators seemed to share the activists’ opinions, chanting, “the military and the Salafists are one hand,” implying that the military had allied with extremist Islamist groups against the Copts.

As death certificates were released by the hospital, tensions rose amongst the martyrs’ families.

According to a relative of Mosaad Ibrahim Mosaad, another young Coptic activist killed on Sunday, the hospital report stated that he was killed by a gun shot. However, the relative said that the family demanded an autopsy be performed in order to document the exact reason behind Mosaad’s death, and to hold those who shot him accountable.

Activist Ilham Aidarous, who was in the hospital to inspect Mina Daniel’s hospital report, said that the hospital's issued death certificate stated accurately that Daniel died as a result of a gun shot.

However, Aidarous added that the hospital might have a harder time ascertaining the cause of death in cases of those who were not shot but are suspected of having died after being driven over by military tanks at Maspero.  

The head of the Coptic Hospital, Doctor Moheb, told Ahram Online that the certificates accurately stated the apparent causes of deaths, and that the families’ anger stemmed from their sadness over their sons’ loss.

Moheb added, “families were so angry they even assaulted me, and, after all, these reports are the responsibility of forensic medicine, not the hospital.”

He confirmed that an autopsy committee will be sent to the hospital straight away, to verify the reasons behind these deaths.

The hospital’s decision to summon an autopsy committee to the premises came as a response to the families’ anger and demands.

While the hospital had initially proposed that the bodies of those killed be transported to another facility for autopsy, the families’ fear that some might violate the sanctity of their dead loved ones made them oppose such option.

Therefore, the planned funeral procession was delayed indefinitely, as all awaited the autopsy committee and its inspection in order to start the trip towards the church.

Meanwhile, in the late afternoon, a demonstration of thousands of angry young Copts coming from the Cathedral, where priests had just finished prayers for four other martyrs, marched by those stranded on the side street by the Coptic Hospital, and continued on towards Maspero where everyone was killed the previous night, to make a statement to the army.

Unable to either join the march or go pray at the Cathedral, families of those who were yet to be buried continued their vigil, awaiting answers that could lead to closure and perhaps justice.

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