Thursday, October 11, 2012

Anger in Cairo after court acquits defendants in the case of 'The Battle of the Camels'

Battle of the Camels, 3 February 2011 (AP) 

An Egyptian court on Wednesday acquitted all 24 defendants in the case of the "Battle of the Camels", who had been  accused of killing protesters last year, during the uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak. The court said the witness testimonies were based on hearsay and grudges against the defendants over parliamentary elections, Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.
Twenty-one protesters were killed and hundreds injured during this Battle of Camel, which took place on 2 and 3 February 2011 and got its name after the fact that some of the  plain-clothed assailants who violently attacked a sit-in on Tahrir Square, rode horses and camels. Eyewitnesses said at the time that the armed forces stationed at key points around the square did not intervene to prevent the bloodshed. Snipers were also, reportedly, deployed on the tops of surrounding buildings shooting at the demonstrators.
Wednesday's court ruling was followed by angry reactions from many sides. The influential April 6 Movement demanded a retrial and called for protests on Thursday in downtown Cairo. Several political and human rights activists said they were disappointed by the verdict."All the parties who investigated the incident are to blame. They forced the judge to issue a farcical verdict," said Mohamed El-Beltagi, an official in the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) to Ahram Online. "The matter is now in the hands of president Morsi, who should retry the criminals and assign that responsibility to fair judicial bodies." Human rights lawyer Gamal Eid mocked the ruling on Twitter, pointing the finger at the investigative bodies rather than the judge. Presidential advisor Seif Abdel-Fattah told Al-Ahram Arabic that indeed the 24 could be retried. "President Morsi has drawn up a fact-finding committee to look into the cases of killing protesters and it acquired new information that will prompt it to demand a re-trial for those who were acquitted, " he said.

 The court based its verdict on the fact that it was  not comfortable with the testimonies, except that of Major General Hassan al-Ruwainy, a former member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces who was in charge of securing Tharir square during the revolt. In July 2012, general Ruwainy, testified that it was not clear who the intruders were. The court found the rest of the evidence insufficient and also pointed out that one of the prosecution witnesses against the defendants had been imprisoned before on charges of perjury.
 The trial, which began last year, included members of the disbanded National Democratic Party, businessmen and former lawmakers. A total of 24 defendants, all senior officials of the former regime,were acquitted.Among those on trial were former Shura Council Speaker Safwat al-Sherif, former People’s Assembly Speaker Fathi Sorour, and ceramics tycoon Mohamed Abul Enein, businessman and former leading NDP member Ibrahim Kamel, former Manpower and Immigration Minister Aisha Abdel Hady, former MP Mortada Mansour, and Hussein Megawer, former head of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation. The number of defendants was initially 25, but one of them, former NDP MP Abdel-Nasser El-Gabri, died last year.

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