Egyptian Panel Drops Maspero Massacre Case for 'Lack of Evidence'
By Mary Abdelmassih
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(AINA) -- On April 24 the panel of judges appointed by the Egyptian minister of justice to investigate the Maspero massacre of October 9, 2011 (AINA 10-10-2011), which claimed the lives of 27 Christians and injured 329, closed the case. In his explanation of the verdict, judge Sarwat Hammad said the case was closed for "lack of identification of the culprits" who killed the army conscript Mohammad Shata and nine protesters (all Christians) with ammunition, as well as attempting to break into a government building and assaulting military personnel.

Charges against 28 Christian Copts and prominent Muslim activist Alaa Abdel-Fatah, who were previously detained, were also dropped for lack of evidence, said the judge. According to their defense lawyers, most of the detainees were arrested after October 9, and some were not even at the Maspero protest and were collected from the streets for just being Christians. Three of them were teens under 16 (AINA 11-5-2011).

The judge referred two Copts, Michael Adel Naguib and Michael Shaker, to the criminal court for allegedly stealing a heavy-duty machine gun from one of the military armored vehicle and "using it to kill Copts" during the Maspero protest. According to Naguib's father, the army and police raided their home in the early hours two days after the massacre and found nothing at home. He said they beat his son and took him away in his underwear (AINA 11-5-2011).

Commenting on the panel's report, attorney Said Fayez, one of the Maspero defense team, said sarcastically "I am happy that we were able to prove the innocence of the Coptic defendants of killing their Coptic brothers." He said the rights of those killed have been denied by a judiciary that is just filling space. "We said all along that it was just a show and this is the outcome we got, but the families of the victims will never forsake the rights of their children." He vowed to continue with the case until the victims receive justice.

Ms. Vivian Magdi, fiancee of Michael Mosad, who was crushed under the wheels of a military armored vehicle as she watched, told Christian Middle East News Agency (MCN) that dropping the case against an "unknown" was a "farce." She has stated from the start that the Maspero case has to be taken to an international court "because in Egypt we were unable to get justice for those who were martyred."

Mary Daniel, sister of Coptic activist Mina Daniel, who was killed at Maspero by a sniper's bullet, said that she expected this outcome for the case. "You can expect anything from whoever kills with such brutality. This case is being handled by the killer [the state] and of course it would be impossible for the killer to condemn himself."

Mary said the ruling "proved" that armored vehicles which crushed the protesters "killed them by mistake," and that those who were shot were the "Coptic protesters killing each other."

The second part of the case is the trial by a military court of three conscripts, who were driving the military armored vehicles which crushed 14 Copts under their wheels (AINA 12-28-2011). They are charged with involuntary manslaughter, a misdemeanor which under the Penal Code carries penalties of imprisonment of not more than seven years. Eyewitnesses and video clips showed the armored vehicles chasing protesters over the pavements.

On April 12 lawyers representing the Maspero victims and prominent human rights organizations quit the military trial, accusing the court of bias.

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