Two Coptic Priests Charged With 'Incitement' in Maspero Massacre
By Mary Abdelmassih
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(AINA) -- Two Coptic priests appeared yesterday before an investigations judge in connection with the events of the Maspero Massacre, in which 28 Copts were killed and 329 injured after being shot and run over by and military Armored Personnel Carriers (AINA 10-10-2011). Father Mattias Nasr of St. Mary's Church in Ezbet el-Nakhl in Greater Cairo and Father Filopateer Gameel of St. Mary's Church in Giza, both founding members of the Maspero Coptic Youth Union, which organized the October 9 demonstration, were accused of causing the death of military soldier Mohamed Ali Shetta, possession of weapons, use of force against the military, attempting to storm the Maspero TV building and incitement to violence.

As evidence, the investigating judge produced video footage collected from radical Islamic websites. "Between the footage there were parts in which a shaikh called on me to convert to Islam," said Father Filopateer.

Commenting on the investigations Father Matthias Nasr said: "I wonder about the conditions prevailing in Egypt now, whereby victims are being investigated, while the real perpetrators are ruling the country and continuing with their crimes against the Egyptian people and peaceful demonstrators everywhere."

According to Father Nasr, the investigations carried out by the military police follow the same lines as those of the Mubarak regime, where the victims become the accused. "We all saw who ran over the demonstrators and who shot at them, all Egyptians saw that on videos (1, 2) and photos. These investigations will not intimidate us or make us retreat from demanding our rights."

Outspoken Coptic Priest Filopateer Gameel said he was not worried about the accusations levied against him and Father Mattias, because they are untrue and can easily be defended, but "the tragedy is the victims of the Maspero Massacre and Two Saints Church in Alexandria (AINA 1-2-2011) will not receive justice, and the assailants will not be punished."

Father Gameel accused Brigadier Hamdi Badeen, head of the military police, as well as generals Damati, Assar and Mohamad Emara, of being responsible for the Maspero massacre, and submitted evidence against them and asked for an investigation, but the judge told him that being high ranking military officials, they can only appear before a military prosecutor and not a civilian one. "I told the judge as long as the military are ruling the country, none of them will be brought to justice."

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights has called for a change to the articles in the Military Judiciary Law to lift the protection of military officers who commit crimes against civilians and to allow the general prosecution to question them.

Father Filopateer said the case of the Maspero Massacre will most likely end with charging the three who drove their personnel carriers with unintentional manslaughter and each would probably be detained only for one week in his unit (AINA 12-28-2011).

The ruling military council has denied all along that military forces used live ammunition against the Maspero protesters, or that personnel intentionally used armored vehicles to run over civilians.

Fathers Mattias and Filopateer were summoned in October 2011 by the military prosecution but they refused to deal with the military investigations, and demanded a civilian judge on grounds that the military "is a direct opponent in this case." The investigation was mandated by the Minister of justice.

Prior to appearing before the investigating judge, they were informed that they are prevented from leaving the country, together with Coptic attorney Dr. Naguib Gabriel, head of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organization, who is due to appear before prosecutors on February 11 for investigation in connection with the Maspero Massacre. Gabriel views this as a political decision "to damage Coptic symbols, and to use them as scapegoats for a crime in which some top military officials are accused of being complicit."

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