Egyptians march on Tahrir on anniversary of deadly protest

Cairo:  Hundreds marched on Cairo's Tahrir Square on Monday to mark one year since deadly clashes that left 45 people dead, piling pressure on President Mohamed Morsi to bring his predecessor's police to account.

Around 50 political parties and movements took part in the commemoration, furious that a year after the clashes on Mohammed Mahmud street, no police officers have been held accountable for the deaths.

On a street branching off from the square, protesters and police lobbed stones at each other but there were no reports of casualties, a security official told AFP.

Many carried flags with pictures of protesters who died in last year's clashes as the chanting crowd demanded that those responsible be brought to justice.

"Whether there will be justice for victims of the Mohammed Mahmud protest, named after the street where it began, is a key test of President Mohamed Morsi's commitment to police accountability and comprehensive security sector reform," Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

Activists are staging a series of events over the week to mark last year's clashes that lasted five days -- including Monday's march on Tahrir.

"Since January 2011, the police have been literally getting away with murder, again and again," said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

"President Morsi should use the anniversary of the Mohammed Mahmud protest to end this impunity and begin a comprehensive process of police reform to deter further abuse," Houry said.

Confrontations between protesters and security forces raged for five days in November 2011 on Mohammed Mahmud Street, near Cairo's Tahrir Square -- the epicentre of protests that toppled Hosni Mubarak months earlier.

Human Rights Watch says it documented how "police shot live ammunition, rubber bullets, and pellets into the crowd, and fired excessive amounts of teargas into spaces between buildings where protesters were positioned."

Only one police officer was referred to trial, on charges of attempted murder. The trial is ongoing.

He became known as the "eye sniper" after a video circulating online showed him shooting at protesters and being praised by a fellow officer for getting the protester "in the eye".

"All police officers responsible for killing, blinding, injuring, and torturing protesters at Mohamed Mahmoud need to be prosecuted and punished if Egypt is serious about deterring these abusive practices," Houry said.

"It's equally important to carry out a fundamental reform of regulations and practices on security force use of lethal and non-lethal weapons and on how they should police demonstrations in line with human rights standards," he said.
Story First Published: November 20, 2012 00:08 IST

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