CAIRO: Political forces and coalitions protesting in Tahrir Square blamed in a press conference Monday the ruling military council for the clashes in Abbasiya that marred a march from Tahrir to the Ministry of Defense on Saturday.
"We have been following the smear campaign launched by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) against Tahrir protesters, and the escalating espionage accusations against national forces like 6 of April and Kefaya, a language that caused a rift between the protesters and the people," said the statement released by the protesters.
Armed men attacked the protesters when they reached Abbasiya, two hours after the march started. Both sides hurled punches and rocks at each other, but eyewitnesses differed on whether knife-yielding attackers were residents or hired thugs.
“Abbasiya residents are not thugs, many of them helped us and getting the injured out of the battle field and threw water bottles for us to drink; whoever attacked us were thugs and the military police kept watching," the statement said.
The protesters demanded the formation of an independent body to investigate the clashes and how they were fueled by the smear campaign.
Different political groups had announced in a press conference last Thursday a call for a march to take place on July 23, on the day celebrating the 59th anniversary of the 1952 Revolution, to reiterate the demands.
"We call on all protesters across the country to protest in front of Ministry of Defense offices to urge the SCAF to provide a detailed timeline of handing its powers to an elected civilian authority and ending military trials of civilians," Moustafa Shawky, spokesperson of the Revolution Youth Coalition, said on Thursday.
"When the SCAF took over power, they promised that they will hand in all their powers to an elected civilian authority, and now six months later the roadmap is still unclear," Shawky added.
The ruling military council said in February it would hand over power in six months or after the parliamentary and presidential elections. It then set a September date for the parliamentary poll and said the presidential would be held before the year’s end. It recently said the election process would start in September with parliamentary elections set for November.
In Monday’s press conference, Yasmine Abdel-Razek, a tour guide and an eyewitness of the Abbasiya clashes, claimed she was violently beaten and interrogated by military police members.
"A group of thugs took me to a military armored vehicle where I was beaten by a someone dressed like a civilian and an army officer was watching and did not stop until my nose started bleeding," said Abdel Razik.
She added that they found $12 with her, which made them accuse her of distributing those dollars to the protesters to attack the army. They shot a video for her with the dollars after the wiped the blood off her face.
"I'm a tour guide, and it is normal to have dollars in my pocket, they kept asking me if I belong to April 6, and when I said I am independent and do not belong to any political party or group, they released me after the armored vehicle took me to a unit in Nasr City," she added.
Activist Nazly Hussien recounted in her testimony the time after the battle had ended. As she left with her friend Amr Gharbia to head back to Tahrir Square, a group of people she called thugs beatGharbia and sexually harassed her all the way to the nearby Demerdash metro station.
"Our march was completely peaceful and if those people who attacked us are the supporters of the SCAF, then this is so bad for the reputation of the SCAF. I was harassed and my friend was beaten by people who thought we are traitors," Hussien said.
"They were asking me if I belong to April 6 or not. Belonging to this heroic group is now an accusation. General Rowainy is responsible for all that happened to us."
Head of the Central District Major General Hassan El-Roweiny reiterated accusations mentioned in SCAF’s 69th statement that accused the April 6 Youth Movement of causing a rift between the army and the people in several TV interviews on Saturday. He "Sabah Dream" TV there are confirmed news of protesters marching towards Ministry of Defense with Molotov Cocktails.
Preacher in Ministry of Endowment Shiekh Hassanien El-Naggar who participated in the march said the army was passive as the attack on the protesters took place.
"I lived for five days with the protesters in Tahrir Square, and before the march I asked them if it is peaceful or not, and they confirmed it is peaceful and aiming to reiterate the demands of the revolution. I swear that they did not attack anyone and it was peaceful from Tahrir to Abbasiya," said El-Naggar.
He recounted his talks with a military police officer who refused to open Al-Nour Mosque for the injured protesters when the clashes escalated. He said the officer threatened him of firing live ammunition.
"I led the [maghreb] prayers in the street and we were hit while we were praying; I was hit in my leg during the prayers," El-Naggar added.
"After finishing the prayers I urged the officer once more to open the mosque, he said that he will only open it for me, so I entered and used the microphone to tell the Abbasiya residents that the protesters are peaceful which assured them and calmed them down, but the thugs did not stop," he recalled.
El-Naggar said he forcibly opened the mosque for the injured after eisha prayers, adding that the numbers of the injured are not 300, as the government said.
"The numbers exceeded 1,000," he said. "The army kept watching and did not intervene to do its job of protecting the people. It is a word of truth; I say to the Egyptian people and history before God who knows everything," El-Naggar concluded.
Mother of Ahmed Mohamed, who received five years sentence in a military trial, said she used to protest with the families of those tried by military courts every Saturday in front of Ministry of Defense, wondering why violence was heavily used this time.
"We marched from Tahrir to Abbasiya very peacefully. Now the blood shed is not only in Tahrir; it reached Abbasiya as well," she added.