The Forgotten: Families of slain protesters demand accountability

Dina Ezzat, Thursday 27 Jun 2013

Thursday is the latest court session for those killed in the December 2011 cabinet clashes, but one year into President Morsi's term families say he has given them little hope for justice

Unidentified relatives mourn slain Egyptian protesters who were killed during the latest clashes (Ph
Unidentified relatives mourn slain Egyptian protesters who were killed during the latest clashes (Photo: AP)

One year in to Mohamed Morsi's presidency just handful of people have been sentenced for killing protesters, despite his promise of "Al-Kassas": justice for those who have died since the start of Egypt's revolution. 

Angered at Morsi backtracking on numerous promises to bring the killers to justice, mothers of protesters killed during the 18-day uprising joined the families of demonstrators who died during Morsi’s administration in front the presidential residence of Cairo's Tagammu Al-Khamis last week.

Carrying pictures of their lost loved ones, the mothers began the protest with prayers, before chanting “Go away Morsi; Morsi you are a disgrace."

Mother of Mohamed El-Shafei, who died last autumn after been detained and tortured following anti-government demonstrations, summed up the sentiment of the group: the president was "blocking the path of justice."

Many fear no one will be held to account, particularly when an appeal against the acquittal of 25 Mubarak-era officials charged with instigating the "Battle of the Camel" 2 February attack on Tahrir Square was rejected a few weeks ago.

The families of those killed during clashes between protesters and security forces in front of Egypt's cabinet building in December 2011 see little hope of justice on the horizon, almost two years later.

"He failed us," says Karim Abdel-Hadi, brother of Alaa, a medical student killed on 16 December. "We voted for Morsi because of the promises he made, especially the one related to bringing the killers to justice; otherwise we would not have voted for him to be honest."

Abdel-Hadi, who is studying at Tanta University's Faculty of Antiquities where his brother was also enroled, says justice for slain protesters is simply "not a priority" for the president.

"If only Morsi could see the heart-breaking look on my mother's face when we drive by Alaa's faculty, if he could only see her breaking into tears when Alaa's name is mentioned, he would not just sit there and do nothing about it,” Abdel-Hadi tells Ahram Online, "this is his business because for us this is the priority."

Equal determination is demonstrated by Nashwa Abdel-Tawab, the widow of Emad Effat, a much-loved Muslim cleric who was killed on the same day as Alaa.

Today, as on the day of Effat's funeral, Abdel-Tawwab, a sports journalist at state-run English-language weekly Al-Ahram, remains dressed in black.

She vows to continue her legal battle, including putting legal pressure on the president himself to secure justice.

"I know that it is not easy especially that, from what I see, the state does not seem to reveal the facts," Abdel-Tawab says.

Abdel-Tawab blames the then-ruling military council for the death of her spouse and other demonstrators but holds the current regime responsible for showing no effort "to even look into the matter."

Lawyer Reda Maraei, who along with a team of attorneys is representing 260 men arrested during the cabinet clashes and working on the cases of those killed, is unequivocally critical of a fact-finding mission established by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to investigate the violence.

"This fact-finding mission had a double-track assignment: one related to the harm done to public buildings on that day, and another to the complaints filed by families of the slain protesters against the security forces on duty for being responsible for the killing of their relatives," Maraei explains.

He added that the focus of the committee's work was almost exclusively on damage to public buildings, not into the deaths of civilians.

Maraei and Amira Kottob, another member of the team of lawyers, have been relentlessly pursuing information from the three judges on this committee but have yet to receive a response.

"It looks like nothing is happening at all; even after Morsi ordered the establishment of a new fact-finding committee to look into all demonstrators killed from the first day of the revolution," Kottob adds.

A few weeks into his term, President Morsi announced he was forming his own fact-finding committee, comprised of experts and public figures, to collect information about the deaths of protesters since the revolution.

Key chapters of the report, which found evidence of serious abuses by the police and the military, were leaked to the international press. But the full 700-page document has yet to be made public by the president.

Kottob and Maraei are also frustrated by the continued detention of those arrested for attacking public buildings, including minors and students. Although Morsi announced a blanket pardon of all defendants in cases related to post-revolution protests, they were - "for ambiguous reasons" Maraei says - not included.

The next session for this case is scheduled on Thursday, almost a year from the day after Morsi became president.

Neither Kottob nor  Maraei sound particularly hopeful: "I don't think that Morsi is at all concerned with this matter. He has other plans; he has not done anything to honour the call for justice, and it does not seem that he would," Kottob said.

Maraei and Kottob are only two of more than 70 lawyers who work on the cases of thousands of men and women who have been killed, injured or arrested in political protests since the revolution started.

“The committee for the defence of the martyrs and the injured of the revolution”, as it is called, has been faced with one defeat after  another, as courts have acquitted accused perpetrators for lack of evidence.

“But Morsi had addressed this matter during his electoral campaign. Over and over again, he kept saying that he knows that investigations had to be redone - for evidence to be made available for the concerned judges in order to serve justice," Kottob, "but in reality, he has not done anything to secure proper investigations and evidence. Eventually all the killers could be acquitted, and justice would be lost."

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