CAIRO — The highest-level inquiry into the deaths of nearly 900 protesters in Egypt’s uprising concluded that police were behind nearly all the killings and used snipers on rooftops over Cairo’s Tahrir Square to shoot into the huge crowds.
The report, parts of which were obtained by the Associated Press, is the most authoritative account of the killings and determines that the deadly force could only have been authorized by Hosni Mubarak’s security chief, with the ousted president’s full knowledge.
The report of the fact-finding commission, created by President Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist, could weigh heavily in the upcoming retrial of Mubarak, as well as his security chief, former Interior minister Habib el-Adly, and six top police commanders. It is likely to also fuel calls for reforming the powerful security forces and lead to prosecutions of members of the police force.
The findings were leaked at a sensitive time for the country’s police. Hated by most Egyptians, the force is in upheaval, with segments on strike and its chief, Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim, pleading not to drag it into politics. The force also faces a challenge from Islamist groups threatening to set up “popular committees” to fill a security vacuum created by the police strike.
Part of the force also is protesting what some see as an attempt by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood to control the force. The Brotherhood denies the charge.
The Interior Ministry, which controls the police, has repeatedly rejected charges that it bore responsibility for the killings in Cairo and other cities during the 18-day uprising that began on Jan. 25, 2011, and ended with Mubarak stepping down. In contrast, the prodemocracy activists behind the uprising have long maintained that police were to blame.
Mubarak and Adly, the second most powerful figure after the ousted leader, were convicted and sentenced to life in jail in June 2012 for failing to stop the killings, but the two successfully appealed their convictions. The six top police commanders put on trial with Mubarak and Adly — including the head of security in Cairo and the commander of the riot police — were acquitted of charges related to the killings. The prosecution appealed that verdict and a new trial of the eight will start next month.
The report was submitted to Morsi and the nation’s top prosecutor late last year. Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, has repeatedly vowed to seek retribution for the victims of the revolution and has ordered pensions and monetary compensation for families of the dead and wounded.
He has also decreed the creation of a special prosecution office to refer to trials criminal cases related to the uprising.
One of the report’s authors, lawyer and rights activist Mohsen Bahnasy, plans to submit relevant parts of the report to the prosecution in the Mubarak case as well as to other courts trying policemen charged with killing protesters. In the past two years, almost all trials of policemen over protester killings ended with acquittals.
It is up to the prosecutor to request that the report be included in the Mubarak retrial.
Police brutality during Mubarak’s 29 years in office was a key cause of the uprising, but the army generals who took over, and Morsi, who followed, have failed to reform the force.
The 16-member fact-finding panel included rights activists, lawyers, judges, and a representative from the military prosecutor’s office. It conducted about 400 interviews.
The report went into extensive detail, citing police logs of the issuing of assault rifles and ammunition, and listing the officers who received them.
Most of the victims were shot in the head or chest, suggesting the use of snipers, and bystanders were also killed .