For months now, Egyptian activists and families of thousands of those killed and injured during the 25 January uprising against ousted former president Hosni Mubarak have argued that snipers played a major role in police repression during those turbulent days.
Lawyers representing families and activists have been trying to pressure the Interior Ministry and the government of interim Prime Minister Essam Sharaf to divulge information on sniper training programmes in the ministry, but to no avail.
Since he took office in March, Interior Minister General Mansour El-Eissawy has vehemently denied that his ministry trains snipers or sharp shooters. However, last night, a former general in the police force told Al-Qahira-Wa-El-Nas TV that the ministry has a special department that trains high-level snipers.
General Refaat Abdel Hamid, who currently works as a criminal defence lawyer and a forensic expert, said the ministry uses ranks such as "excellent" and "dexterous" to classify its snipers. Abdel Hamid added that shooting instructors urge snipers during training sessions to focus on "the eye of the chick" — a euphemism for targets.
Abdel Hamid also claimed that Mubarak had personally attended some shooting practice sessions in the past to assess police readiness. However, the former police general told Al-Qahira that it might be hard to force the ministry to admit that a sniper operation exists because a culture of corruption and brutality still dominates among police officers.
Furthermore, the former general said that even if courts managed to prosecute snipers, it would be difficult to convict them because the office of the medical examiner botched death reports. “The former medical examiner failed — or chose not — to document basics such as types of bullets, bullet entry positions or distance from which shooters directed bullets at protesters,” Abdel Hamid said.
The former general added that he is ready to testify in court and to share whatever documents he has in order to bring those who killed unarmed protesters to justice. “These young people were armed only with words and an Egyptian flag. Nobody should have killed them,” Abdel Hamid concluded.