Egypt's rulers defend military violence, blame protesters

Arab World Materials 19 December 2011 22:17 (UTC +04:00)
Egypt's military council on Monday blamed protesters for the violence that left 12 civilians killed since clashes in central Cairo began four days ago, saying the army had to intervene to protect public property.
Egypt's rulers defend military violence, blame protesters

Egypt's military council on Monday blamed protesters for the violence that left 12 civilians killed since clashes in central Cairo began four days ago, saying the army had to intervene to protect public property, dpa reported.

"Our soldiers [used] self-restraint and were insulted. Rocks and petrol bombs were thrown at them," said Adel Emara, a member of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

"Using violence against protesters is a fake allegation circulated by mass media," he added.

During a press conference, Emara showed video of young men throwing rocks and petrol bombs at government buildings as well as interviews with alleged witnesses who said they were paid to attack the troops.

The country is facing a "systemic plan" targeting its security, said Emara, adding that the military council had information that people gathered in Tahrir Square were planning to burn the country's parliament building on Monday.

The building housing parliament is located a few metres away from Tahrir Square, near the cabinet headquarters, where the recent clashes took place.

A cautious calm prevailed in central Cairo on Monday, for the first time since clashes began on Friday. Protesters are demanding that the military hand over power to a civilian administration.

Ahmad Aggour, a 23-year-old protester injured by the military, said that the number of protesters had declined due to the violent clampdown.

"This is not just a street war but a media war because now public support for the protests is so low. Many people are with the military council because they are receiving false information from state television," Aggour told dpa.

"The military council wants these buildings to burn so they put the blame on protesters," he added, referring to a library containing rare books that was set on fire during the recent clashes.

The army has erected a third concrete wall to prevent the protesters from reaching the nearby parliament and cabinet offices.

Members of the opposition April 6 movement said that the ruling council had lied about not using violence on protesters and blamed it for the deaths and injuries of protesters.

"Unfortunately the military is not admitting the truth," the group said.

The group showed journalists footage of soldiers beating protesters and using live fire against civilians. It also showed footage of protesters dousing a fire, discounting allegations by the military council that protesters were setting buildings on fire.

"Despite all the violence that happened, including against members from our group, we will continue to adopt a non-violent approach," Ahmad Maher, one of the founders of April 6, told reporters.

The military council has also been criticized for using violence against female protesters.

Military Council member Emara said that an investigation had been launched into an incident where a girl was stripped of her clothes in the street and beaten by army forces.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemned Monday what she described as the "brutal suppression" of demonstrations by military and security forces in Cairo.

"The graphic images of protesters, including women, being brutally clubbed and assaulted, long after the point when they are showing any resistance, are utterly shocking," Pillay said in a statement.

This latest violence is the worst since last month, when more than 40 people were killed in clashes between security personnel and pro-democracy protesters near Tahrir Square.

Despite being praised for siding with the protest movement that forced former president Hosny Mubarak to set down in February, the military has since been criticized for using force against pro-democracy demonstrators and refusing to hand power to a civilian administration.