Three Soldiers to Be Tried for 'Manslaughter' in The Maspero Military Attacks

Press Release

26 December 2011

Military judges rule out live fire in the case of Mina Daniel and the rest of the Maspero martyrs, accepting that they were run over...

The trial pre-empts the results of the civilian investigative judge's report, aiming to protect soldiers from accountability...

Tomorrow, Tuesday 27th December, the Supreme Military Tribunal will begin court proceedings for three soldiers charged with the 'manslaughter' of 14 of the martyrs of the Maspero massacre, which took place in front of the radio and television building on the 9th October. The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) said that the trial lacks the most basic guarantees of fair trial and justice. It is the latest iteration of the position of the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces (SCAF), which denied and continues to deny any responsibility for this horrific crime which led to 28 deaths, most of them Coptic demonstrators.

The EIPR also accused SCAF of continuing to try and protect members of the military police from criminal responsibility, by presenting three soldiers to the military court even before the investigative judge assigned by the public prosecutor had finished his investigations of the same incident. The EIPR once again emphasised the necessity of immediately amending the provisions of the Military Justice Code to end the immunity which soldiers currently enjoy, protecting them from accountability before the civil judiciary regarding crimes against civilians.

According to the charge sheet which the EIPR obtained, the case (no. 5441 of 2011, Military Felonies-East district) is considered a misdemeanour under Article 238 (paragraph 3) of the Penal Code, which punishes manslaughter with imprisonment not exceeding seven years. The list of defendants was limited to: Private Mahmoud Hamed Abd el-Halim Suleiman (21 years old, military police unit K1), Private Karam Hamed Mohammed Hamed (21 years old, military police unit K1), and Private Mahmoud Gamal Taha Mahmoud (22 years old, military police unit Q5), all affiliated to the central military district.

The military prosecutor's charges against the three soldiers stated that 'their error led to the death of fourteen people amongst the crowd in front of the Radio and Television Union building. This was caused by their neglect and lack of precaution; whilst driving trucks and armoured vehicles belonging to the armed forces, they drove randomly and haphazardly. This was unsuitable for the condition of the road, which was crowded with people, and this led to the collision with the victims.'

Hossam Bahgat, director of the EIPR, said: 'Almost three months since the Maspero massacre, the military council has decided to choose 14 of the martyrs of the massacre, who lost their lives under the wheels of Egyptian army military vehicles before our eyes and on our television screens, and consider them victims of the negligence of armoured vehicle drivers as though they were caught in a normal traffic accident. How can we consider the killing of 14 citizens manslaughter? And what of Mina Daniel and the rest of the massacre's martyrs who were killed by live fire? And why did the military judiciary choose to rush through this trial without waiting for the report of the investigative judge on the massacre? How can we trust the military judge when we see him expending all this effort in protecting soldiers and leaders from real accountability?'

The EIPR added that the trial, which begins its sittings tomorrow, appears to have a clear political purpose: lending support to the military council's narrative of the massacre, which it presented at its press conference on the 12th October. SCAF denied that the soldiers securing the television building were armed, but that rather it was the demonstrators who attacked military police forces. The armoured vehicle drivers were confused, and ran people down – at least those who were not hit by demonstrators' bullets.

Ahmed Hossam, a lawyer with the EIPR, said: 'Justice will not be achieved for the martyrs of Maspero or any other crimes committed by soldiers against Egyptians as long as the Military Justice Code hinders the ability of the public prosecutor to investigate soldiers in cases referred to it. How can we imagine that the civilian investigative judge undertakes full, fair, and open investigations when he cannot even attend hearings of the officers and soldiers of the military police accused of committing the very massacre which he was originally assigned to investigate?'