Independent probe urged in Egypt detainee deaths

Calling yesterday's killings “a cold-blooded murder”, Muslim Brotherhood says the anti-coup prisoners were deliberately targeted in Egypt

Independent probe urged in Egypt detainee deaths

World Bulletin / News Desk

Several Egyptian political groups and figures deplored the death of tens of supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi detainees on Sunday while being in police custody, calling for an independent probe into the incident.

Egypt's Interior Ministry said that at least 36 Muslim Brotherhood detainees had died because of "gas inhalation and stampede" during an attempt to escape from a police vehicle moving them to a jail complex in northern Cairo.

In a statement published on its website, the ministry said it brought the situation under control after freeing a police officer earlier held by the detainees.

"The incident resulted in the deaths of 36 of the detainees because of gas inhalation and stampeding," it added.

However, the National Alliance for the Defense of Legitimacy, a coalition of largely Islamist parties and figures supportive of the ousted leader, said the number of deaths had hit 52 and demanded an international investigation into the incident. It was not immediately clear the source for the death toll used by the alliance.

The pro-Morsi alliance accused the army-backed interim authorities of "a systematic violence against and cold-blooded murder of anti-coup protesters."

Morsi supporters describe as "military coup" his removal by the powerful army on July 3 following mass protests against his regime.

"We hold the leaders of the coup, particularly army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim responsible for this crime and demand an international probe in this and other crimes perpetrated by them."

The incident also drew condemnation from the Brotherhood's opponents.

Former presidential aspirant Hamdeen Sabahi tweeted that the incident constituted "a deep wound of national conscience" and called for the formation of a judicial committee backed by independent legal activists to probe the incident.

Salafist Nour party deputy leader Nader Bakkar, also via Twitter,  said that his party condemned the deaths and held the Interior Ministry responsible for the "massacre".

"No reasonable person can comprehend any excuse for the killing of 38 persons while in police custody and of course they were not armed," he wrote.  The party's spokesman, Sherif Taha, told Anadolu Agency that the party calls for an independent fact-finding committee to investigate the incident.

"What happened to the pro-Morsi detainees is a crime against humanity. They are citizens who should enjoy their full rights even if they were convicted, let alone they were not even convicted yet," he said.

The June 30 Front, a body representing different opposition forces that had campaigned for the mass anti-Morsi demonstrations on that day, also called for the formation of a legal committee to investigate what led to the deaths.

"If we condemn acts by militants, we would not also accept killings based on identity or political affiliation," Haitham al-Shawaf, the group's coordinator, told AA.

"We would not accept the killing of armless prisoners, even if they were our opponents," he added.

In a statement, Gamaa Islamiya called on the country's human rights organizations to intervene to stop "a massacre" by the Interior Ministry against the "detainees who oppose the bloody military coup."

The Muslim Brotherhood, meanwhile, accused Egyptian authorities late Sunday of "liquidating" the detained protesters.

"The Interior Ministry is in this way liquidating anti-coup protesters," Mokhtar al-Ashri, the head of the legal committee of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, told the Anadolu Agency.

Al-Ashri was commenting on reports that 36 Muslim Brotherhood members were killed earlier today during what the Interior Ministry described as an attempt to free detainees being moved to a prison complex in northern Cairo.

"These are deliberate murders added to the crimes perpetrated against peaceful protesters and detainees," al-Ashri said.

Muslim Brotherhood spokesperson Gehad al-Hadad, for his part, condemned the "killing of tens of detainees," casting doubts on the Interior Ministry's version of events that they died of teargas suffocation.

"This is a new massacre perpetrated by the coup leaders against pro-legitimacy protesters."

Güncelleme Tarihi: 19 Ağustos 2013, 11:28