'We predicted Maspero clashes five days before they occurred,' says member of cabinet-appointed committee

Ahram Online, Tuesday 11 Oct 2011

Judge Noha El-Zeiny says committee warned PM Sharaf of unrest if government didn't act fast to heal sectarian tensions escalating since Aswan church attack

Maspero clashes
Egyptian Coptic Christians carry coffins at the morgue of the Coptic Hospital as they prepare to make their way to Abassaiya Cathedral during a mass funeral for victims of sectarian clashes with soldiers and riot police, after a protest about an attack on a church in southern Egypt, in Cairo October 10, 2011. (Photo: Reuters)

Members of the cabinet-appointed National Justice Committee predicted the Maspero clashes five days before they occurred, one of its members has claimed.

Legal expert and judge, Noha El-Zeiny, a member of the committee designed to help tackle sectarian problems, has revealed that members had been aware that clashes would take place since Tuesday 4 October, because Prime Minister Essam Sharaf had opted to ignore their recommendation to act immediately to stop sectarian tensions from escalating.

The committee had presented two recommendations to Sharaf to be urgently put into effect in order to contain the crisis before it goes out of hand.

“We personally advised Sharaf of the importance of dismissing the governor of Aswan, and taking urgent procedures to give permits to churches that had not yet been licensed,” El-Zeiny said.

According to El-Zeiny, the committee had met with Sharaf after the Copts held their first march on Tuesday 4 October to voice fury after Muslims in Merinab in the Aswan governorate attempted, on 30 September, to block renovations underway at a Christian church in the majority Muslim village.

The protesting Copts were also angry because the governor of Aswan justified the attack by saying the church did not have a permit, which was untrue.

That night, says El-Zeiny, Copts held a meeting with Sharaf and produced a report with “urgent recommendations,” which they told Sharaf needed to be put in effect immediately if he wanted to contain the escalating crisis.

However, El-Zeiny said, Sharaf ignored both recommendations, which led to the Copts taking to the streets again on Sunday, which ended in deadly clashes in front of the State TV building in Maspero.

“They did not seriously debate any of our recommendations but rather just tried to find justifications to postpone their response to the crisis," El-Zeiny said. "This is the same style used by the former regime.”

El-Zeiny added that members of the committee had hoped news of the Aswan governor’s dismissal would be aired to the media on Wednesday morning and would have helped soothe tensions.

El-Zeiny made her comments on the Al-Ashira Masa'an television programme and revealed that Sharaf’s response, or lack of one, to the crisis, led her to resign from the committee.

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