CAIRO: Eight local human rights organizations have accused the police of violating the 2013 Protest law by not adhering to “escalating use of force” in dispersing gatherings on Jan. 24-25, according to a joint statement Wednesday.
On January 24, activist Shaimaa al-Sabbagh was hit by birdshot during the police dispersal of a march in memory of the fourth anniversary of the 25 January Revolution. Participants in the march told The Cairo Post police were not committed to “the gradual use of force” stated in the controversial Protest Law, and blamed the forces for not warning them during the protest.
Once the march arrived in Talaat Harb Square to place a wreath on Tahrir Square memorial, one of the participants, Hossam Nassr told The Cairo Post Thursday that they asked an officer for sending “five of us to place a wreath on the [Jan. 25 victims’] memorial in Tahrir Square.”
According to Nassr, the officer ignored their request, pointed at them and ordered dispersal. Thus, forces dispersing their “peaceful” march fired “tear gas bombs and birdshots at the same time, and did not use water cannons or prior warnings,” he added.
The Interior Ministry spokesperson was not reachable to comment whether or not police forces have used gradual forces to disperse the march.
Sabbagh’s cause of death was “birdshot in the back, leading to lacerations in the two lungs, heart and a massive hemorrhage in the chest,” according to a forensic medicine report, which determined the range of shooting between eight and 10 meters.
The Interior Ministry Spokesperson Hani Abdel Latif denied the use of bird shots or any weapons other than tear gas bombs in dispersing the Jan. 24 march, in previous statements to The Cairo Post.
Nassr was close to Sabbagh when she was shot, and he was trying to help the others to carry her to a safer place, but security forces arrested him. Nassr was among others who were briefly arrested that day over accusations of violating the protest law.
The Wednesday joint statement also demanded immediate, impartial and comprehensive investigation into Sabbagh’s death and dropping off the false charges against activists who were arrested during the march.
Furthermore, the statement accused the police of using “excessive, lethal force” against demonstrators on January 25 particularly in Matariya Square, leading to clashes between security forces and protesters allegedly supporting the banned Muslim Brotherhood group.
The law stipulates that a protest should receive a prior police permit, and if not, forces are allowed to disperse the gathering, but gradually. Since the law was not welcomed by activists for “curbing their freedom,” most of the demonstrations do not request a license in advance.
Nassr denied other accusations of using fireworks and slogans meant to overthrow the regime, saying that they were repeating chants like: “Not Muslim Brotherhood but Jan. 25 revolutionists, and Glory to the Martyrs.” He added, “How can these chants be considered as harm to the state or meant to overthrow the regime?”
“We just demand accountability to Sabbagh’s killer, because it was a crime and not killing by mistake,” said Nassr.
For his part, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said Monday that if any member of the security forces were responsible for Sabbagh’s death, he would be tried.