ElBaradei calls for ‘credible’ response to Maspero violence

Mohamed ElBaradei, a reform advocate and potential presidential candidate, has called on Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi, the head of the ruling military council, to transfer those accused in the recent Maspero violence from military to civilian courts in order to ensure an independent investigation. ElBaradei also called for an independent fact-finding committee formed by the civilian judiciary to investigate the incidents.

Twenty-eight people died near the Maspero television building in Cairo last week when military forces attacked a largely Coptic protest against government inaction on recent sectarian violence. The dead were for the most part civilians, with just one soldier confirmed amongst the fatalities so far.

The military prosecution has already begun investigations into 25 suspects accused of attacking military property and military forces. However, no investigation has yet been launched into who is responsible for killing protesters.

“Investigations by a civilian court will ensure their credibility, because it is impossible that the army acts both an opponent and an arbitrator at the same time,” ElBaradei said in the press conference on Sunday.

Human rights groups and political activists have condemned military trials of civilians since the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) took power in February. About 12,000 civilians have been tried in military tribunals since then, human rights groups say.

“The Egyptian blood must not continue to be wasted, whether Coptic or Muslim blood,” said ElBaradei.

“I am sick of hearing the usual talk about mysterious third parties and counter-revolutionary forces behind the chaos in the country without knowing the identity of a single one of these people,” he said. Military and government officials have issued vague warnings about “foreign hands” inciting the violence in order to divide Egypt.

The former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency also condemned state TV’s “shameful” coverage of events, accusing it of deliberately “lying” and “inciting violence” between Muslims and Christians.

“State TV has changed from being the mouthpiece of the previous regime to that of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces,” said ElBaradei.

ElBaradei added that state TV must be investigated. He added that purging the state media was one of the main demands of the revolution.

In the longer term, ElBaradei, who has been pushing for democratic reforms since early 2010, stressed the importance of facing the issue of sectarianism head-on and admitting that Egypt suffers from an escalating problem. 

“We have to get over the slogans that say Muslims and Copts are one and admit that we have a problem of religious discrimination,” he said.

The presidential hopeful applauded the enforcement of the anti-discrimination law and asked for the quick announcement of the unified law on places of worship, which would address inequalities in the laws regulating the construction of churches.

“One important solution to the sectarian problem is empowering Al-Azhar as a centrist Islamic power to neutralize extremist forces in society,” said ElBaradei.

The potential presidential candidate also called for enforcement of the Treachery Law, which could be used to keep members of the former ruling National Democratic Party’s influential policy secretariat and members of the last parliament from political activity.

ElBaradei also criticized the SCAF’s decision not to allow international monitoring of the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections and slow action on giving Egyptian expatriates their right to vote.

“This issue requires a political decision, not a logistical one,” he said.

ElBaradei denied previous rumors that he was asked by the SCAF to form a government to replace the current one. However, he called on the military rulers to provide the government with the necessary power to take decisions. The current cabinet is widely viewed as impotent.

“The SCAF’s role ends with the end of the transitional period, and it should not be involved in running the state,” he said. “There are also issues that need to be discussed, such as the army’s budget, which should be open for open discussion.”
He expressed his concern at the continuation of military rule: "The SCAF’s ability to run the country is nil as it has no experience.”

ElBaradei ended his statement to the press by blaming revolutionary forces for succumbing to divisions and special interests.

“My message to all revolutionaries is that our strength is in our unity,” he said.

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