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03/01/2013 | Report Says Mubarak Dictated Fierce Response to Egypt Protests

Kareem Fahim

Sitting in his palace in early 2011, as protests against him consumed Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak watched live video feeds of the demonstrations in Tahrir Square and the brutal response by his security forces, who used clubs, tear gas and live ammunition against civilians, according to a commission investigating deaths during the 18-day revolt and its aftermath.


The video was delivered on an encrypted channel to Mr. Mubarak and other top officials, along with detailed security reports. Facing the most severe challenge to his rule in three decades, and just days after protests had forced Tunisia’s autocratic president to flee his country, Mr. Mubarak authorized the use of any means to stop the demonstrations, his interior minister, Habib el-Adly, told the commission’s investigators.

“Mubarak knew everything, big and small,” Mr. Adly said, according to a commission member, Ali al-Gineidy. The group’s report, which was delivered on Wednesday to Mr. Mubarak’s successor, President Mohamed Morsi, has not been released to the public, but in recent days members have spoken about its findings.

The picture of Mr. Mubarak, 84, that has started to emerge from their comments — as a zealous watcher of the protests and the orchestrator of the crackdown — seems to contradict accounts by lawyers for the deposed president that he did not authorize the repression or know about the deaths. His court appearances after his ouster — in which he lay on a stretcher, wearing pajamas and sunglasses — and frequent reports of his ill health have reinforced his image as a detached, somewhat feeble leader.

In June, a court convicted Mr. Mubarak and Mr. Adly of being accessories to murder, but absolved them of more direct responsibility for the uprising’s casualties.

More than 800 people died during the uprising, and dozens more were killed during Egypt’s chaotic, military-led transition to civilian leadership. Only a few police officers are serving prison time in the killings, and hundreds of other officials have been acquitted. Human rights advocates hope the commission’s 700-page report will be a step toward breaking a culture of impunity that the revolt failed to crack. Even now, civilians are tortured by the security forces, which the current Islamist government has taken no steps to reform.

Mr. Morsi appointed the 16-member commission in July, soon after he took office. The panel also investigated the deaths of protesters during the military-led transition period and found that soldiers had fired live ammunition at demonstrators, despite denials by military leaders.

In a telephone interview, Mohsin al-Bahnasi, a commission member, said enough evidence had been collected to convict members of the armed forces, although human rights advocates say that is unlikely because civilian courts have no power to try them.

In recent weeks, Mr. Morsi has called for top officials, including Mr. Mubarak and Mr. Adly, to be retried in the killings. On Wednesday, his office released a statement saying the public prosecutor would evaluate the commission’s findings.

Mr. Gineidy, who quit the commission before it submitted its report, praised its investigation but said its work had been jeopardized by Egypt’s judiciary, which has been unwilling to confront the security forces.

Mr. Gineidy said Mr. Morsi would have to “establish revolutionary courts or special circuits” to try perpetrators because many sitting judges, appointed by Mr. Mubarak, were still loyal to the old government.

The commission looked at evidence including Interior Ministry documents like weapons discharge reports and service orders that detailed security deployments, said Mr. Bahnasi, who also spoke about the report on Al Jazeera on Tuesday.

The commission recorded an interview with Mr. Adly in prison and spoke with officials with the Information Ministry, who told it about Mr. Mubarak’s video feeds.

The commission collected evidence that showed the authorities discussed covering up killings, including by quickly burying the bodies of victims. Interior Ministry documents showed that officers used machine guns and birdshot against the protesters.

Mr. Bahnasi said the commission also gathered evidence on the government’s widespread use of plainclothes thugs, who were commanded by senior officials of Mr. Mubarak’s political party and the Interior Ministry.

The government, Mr. Adly said, gave the thugs money and broken marble to attack the protesters.

On the rooftop of a hotel in Tahrir Square, military officers videotaped the protests, Mr. Gineidy said. The information minister arranged for the feeds to be piped to Mr. Mubarak and other officials. The government “recorded everything until the day he stepped down,” Mr. Bahnasi said on Al Jazeera.


NY Times (Estados Unidos)


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