CAIRO: The two victims who reportedly died at a Saturday demonstration in Downtown Cairo protesting the verdict of former President Hosni Mubarak were not killed by the police, Ministry of Interior spokesperson Hany Abdel Latif claimed in a Hayat TV interview Sunday.
Tamer Salah, 28, was killed by being shot with live ammunition in the back, while Ramy Ahmed, 24, was killed by a “heavy kind of birdshot” in the neck, face and chest from a distance of four to five meters, Forensic Medicine Authority spokesperson Hesham Abdel Hameed told the same channel.
“We used water [cannons] and tear gas… we did not use any other kinds of weaponry… we do not ever use such weapons in residential areas under such circumstances,” Abdel Latif said, adding that five officers were injured in the dispersal.
Nine protesters were also injured at the protest that lasted for about five hours before the police intervened. Dozens were briefly arrested, including reporters. Others were released the following day from Abdeen Police Station after a National Security interrogation, but with “clear traces of torture,” and many were crying and needed support to walk, Mohamed Sobhy, a lawyer at Nedal Center for Rights and Freedoms, wrote on Facebook.
Echoes of deadly 2011 clashes
The kind of birdshot found in Ahmed’s body, the radius of which is six to eight millimeters, is used to hunt large animals and is fatal because it is fast and can penetrate the skull from up to 20 meters, according to Abdel Hameed. If Abdel Hameed’s description of heavier grade lethal birdshot is accurate, it may not be birdshot at all, but instead some other variety of shotgun ammunition. This could include buckshot or shotgun slugs, which in most varieties are designed to be lethal.
“This is a kind of birdshot that we first saw in the events of Mohamed Mahmoud, where there were people from the protesters and people from the police injured by it,” Abdel Hameed said.
In November 2011, the police forcibly dispersed a small sit-in at Tahrir Square that was demanding the handover of power from the then-ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to a civilian authority. The clashes moved from the square to the nearby Mohamed Mahmoud Street and lasted for a week, leaving a death toll of at least 50 and possibly hundreds more according to different tallies. Hundreds of protesters were seriously injured, with some losing their eyesight, and dozens of police were also injured.
At the time, Abdel Hameed claimed there was a “third party” that attacked both the police and the protesters.
“As far as the information we have, it was not part of the police weaponry before the first events of Mohamed Mahmoud… investigations might prove whether the police brought it [after that] or not, we just don’t know,” Abdel Hameed added.
For his part, Abdel Latif claimed that Muslim Brotherhood supporters infiltrated the Saturday protest and began assaulting the police, and that the reported injuries and deaths resulted from clashes between the Brotherhood and other protesters and locals who did not want them to take part in the protest.
Abdel Latif also claimed that the killed protester Ahmed was not actually killed at the clashes, saying that while investigations are still underway, he possibly died at a fight in Masr al-Qadima district south of Cairo, and his body was transferred to Qasr al-Aini Public Hospital.
Two men dropped off Ahmed’s body Saturday at the hospital, and claimed he died at the clashes, but his family told investigators he did not tell them he was going to Downtown, Youm7 reported.
On the ground, Tahrir Square was reopened Monday morning for traffic and pedestrians after a 48-hour closure, but security forces are still deployed in armored vehicles in the area. Protesters on Saturday demonstrated at the neighboring Abdel Moneim Riyad Square due to the closure.
Gamal Abdel Nasser Metro station near Tahrir Square was also closed for about seven hours on Sunday; the Anwar Sadat Metro Station that leads directly into the square has been closed since the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.