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Gov't failed to handle Nagaa Hammadi shooting, says report - Daily News Egypt

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Gov't failed to handle Nagaa Hammadi shooting, says report

CAIRO: The government failed to deal with the Nagaa Hammadi shootings prior to and following the tragic incident, a report by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) said. In addition to noting the political dimension of the violence, the report said the government failed on three fronts, the first of which was recognizing warning …


CAIRO: The government failed to deal with the Nagaa Hammadi shootings prior to and following the tragic incident, a report by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) said.

In addition to noting the political dimension of the violence, the report said the government failed on three fronts, the first of which was recognizing warning signs foreboding the shootings. It also failed to prevent the attack as it happened and finally committed several security violations when arresting the suspects.

The report cited evidence and testimonies obtained by EIPR that suggest that there were warning signs prior to the incident. It said that local and central security forces had indications that this area in Nagaa Hammadi will be attacked on Christmas Eve.

“The report is based on 35 testimonials from witnesses of the attack, Hossam Bahgat, EIPR director, said during a press conference held Wednesday to discuss the report.

However, Bahgat said there was no evidence indicating that security forces’ negligence was discriminatory.

On Jan. 6, gunmen sprayed a group of Coptic Christians leaving a local church after mass on Wednesday night. Six Copts and a Muslim guard died, and nine people were wounded.

“Bishop Kirollos held a meeting with the priests of the parish on Jan. 4 and asked them to wrap up the Christmas mass early because he is worried that some clashes might take place afterwards, a Coptic priest in Nagaa Hamadi told EIPR on condition of anonymity.

The report details background information about incidents of sectarian violence in Nagaa Hammadi over the past two decades, while also highlighting the voting power of its Coptic community.

According to the report, it’s this unified vote that cost MP Abdel-Rahim El-Ghoul the parliamentary elections in 2000. In 2005, Bishop Kirollos rallied support for El-Ghoul’s opponent. But after his win in 2005, according to the report, the MP’s supporters targeted private property owned by Copts.

Even though El-Ghoul denied any involvement in the Jan. 6 shootings, Head of Al Kalima Human Rights Center Mamdouh Nakhla filed a case to Prosecutor General Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud alleging that El-Ghoul is responsible for the violence.

The report also cited random arrests following the incident, where both Muslims and Christians were taken from places far from where the shootings took place.

“The number of Christians arrested in the first four days after the attacks were 48; 28 were released in three groups, and 20 are still in custody (some of them are brothers). The process was random. Some of them were arrested from their homes, one was detained when he went to ask about his arrested brother … We were notified that they were being treated brutally, insulted, cursed, and beaten, a church source in Nagaa Hamadi told EIPR.

This testimony contradicts with Ministry of Interior statements claiming that only 16 Muslims and 13 Christians were detained during riots.

“During protests in front of the diocese against detaining Copts in Bahgoura; people were brutally beaten, including children younger than 15 years old, Nader Shoukry, an eyewitness told EIPR, “one of the kids asked for the help of a reverend, however, security forces prevented the monks from interfering and beat them in front of the deputy of the diocese who was punched and fell to the ground.

According to the report which is based on witness accounts, detained Christians were tortured at the state security office in Nagaa Hammadi. Sources claimed that one of the officers used electric shocks on those detained.

Bahgat said that while it is likely that Muslim detainees were subjected to torture too, EIPR didn’t get a chance to interview any Muslims.

Other violations mentioned in the report include preventing journalists from covering the incidents in Nagaa Hammadi. EIPR received many complaints from reporters who were prevented from interviewing witnesses and priests, harassed and even beaten.

Some reporters also claimed that they were not allowed to do their job, unless they got permission from the interior ministry.

The report also cited the detention of a group of activists and bloggers en route to pay condolences to relatives of Coptic Christians murdered outside a church in Nagaa Hammadi on Jan. 15.

“One of the detainees fainted while being held in a cell in a Nagaa Hammadi police station, when they informed the officers about his condition they refused to let him out of the cell, Amira El-Tahawi, one of those detained, told EIPR.

Topics: Aboul Fotouh

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