NCHR press conference goes off course

NCHR press conference goes off course

A man grieves at a make shift hospital where victims are being brought following clashes between Egyptian police and Muslim Brotherhood supporters of deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi outside the elite Republican Guards base in Cairo early on July 8, 2013.  (AFP Photo)

A man grieves at a make shift hospital where victims are being brought following clashes between Egyptian police and Muslim Brotherhood supporters of deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi outside the elite Republican Guards base in Cairo early on July 8, 2013.
(AFP Photo)

A press conference organised by the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) to condemn the Republican Guard clashes which left 51 civilians and four soldiers dead was disrupted by a speech made by former Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa.

The NCHR invited Gomaa to attend their conference which took place on Tuesday. The latter was sponsoring a conference about achieving national reconciliation among Egyptians at the same venue of the NCHR’s conference.

Gomaa was given the opportunity to speak before everyone else. The former Grand Mufti stressed the importance of the unity of all Egyptians, and added that the shedding of Egyptian blood by fellow Egyptians is prohibited.

“We accept peaceful protesting and consider it a form of promotion of virtue and prevention of vice,” Gomaa said. “Yet we do not accept it when arms are used in protests, turning them into violence and terrorism.”

Mohamed Al-Damaty, NCHR deputy head, stated during the conference that Egypt is “on the edge of the abyss”, adding that the political situation the country is currently facing is “extremely complicated.”

“I personally condemn any political detentions which take a legal shape,” Al-Damaty said, in reference to the arrest of several Muslim Brotherhood leaders. “I had the honour of attending the investigation with most detainees, and I assure you that there wasn’t a single piece of evidence incriminating them in inciting violence.”

Al-Damaty also criticised the shutting down of religious channels “under the pretext that they incite strife”. He stated that the decision to shut them down and leave other channels reflects the exercise of “double-standards” by the authorities.

Regarding the Republican Guards clashes, Al-Damaty stated that the attempted shooting on citizens violates one of the most basic human rights, the right to life. He called for the formation of a neutral investigative committee to look into the clashes.

As soon as Al-Damaty was done, Gomaa grabbed the microphone and stated that it should not be understood from the former’s speech that the army opened fire on undeserving victims.

“I’m against shedding of Egyptians’ blood so long as they are unarmed,” Gomaa said, amid loud applause from most of those present. “Yet those who use weapons against the army deserve to be killed. They claim they were peaceful! If it were infiltrators who started the violence, then those peaceful protesters should have left the scene as soon as violence was used. Since they didn’t leave, they’ve aligned themselves with the infiltrators.”

Gomaa’s heated speech was closely followed by the official statement released on behalf of the NCHR. The council strongly condemned all acts of violence as well as those who incite against such acts. They also condemned the Republican Guard clashes, stressing the people’s right to life.

As soon as the statement was read, over a dozen employees at the NCHR entered the hall holding banners condemning the council members. They described the current formation of the NCHR as being “illegitimate”, calling its members “murderers of the revolutionaries.”

Arrest warrants have been issued against council members Abdel Moneim Abdel Maqsoud, Safwat Hegazy and Mohamed Al-Beltagy.

Protesting employees accused the remaining members of issuing arbitrary decisions against them.  Mahmoud Khaled, one of the protesters, accused the council members of covering up for the human rights violations exercised during the Republican Guard clashes. He also accused Hegazy and Al-Beltagy of inciting against the clashes.

Former council head Hossam El-Gheriany submitted his resignation on Thursday, following the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi. El-Gheriany told council deputy-head Mohamed Al-Damaty in his resignation letter that the “hole has become too wide to be mended and the talk of human rights in Egypt is now a futile matter I would rather distance myself from.”

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