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October 24, 2011

Rights Group Seeks Independent Probe of Violence Against Egypt's Copts

A rights group is calling for an independent probe into the Egyptian military's use of force against Coptic Christian protesters earlier this month.

Human Rights Watch is urging Egypt's military rulers to transfer the investigation from a military prosecution to a non-partisan inquiry.  An official with the group says the military cannot investigate itself with any credibility.  

About 25 people were killed October 9 when clashes erupted among security forces, Muslims and minority Copts who were demonstrating in Cairo.  

Egyptian military officials have denied reports that troops opened fire on Copt demonstrators and that soldiers in armored vehicles deliberately ran over protesters.

Video of the violence showed military vehicles plowing through unarmed Christian protesters.  This fueled anger against Egypt's ruling generals.

In Washington, hundreds of Egyptian-Americans marched from the White House to the the U.S. Capitol last week to show solidarity with Copts who were killed in the Egyptian violence.

On Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama urged the head of Egypt's ruling military council to end emergency rule and stressed his support for Egypt's transition to democracy.

The White House said Obama spoke by telephone with Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, and called for Egypt to also halt military trials of civilians.

Egypt's military has been in power since the February ouster of Hosni Mubarak as president.  Emergency rule has continued despite calls for an end to the widely despised law.

The country is scheduled to hold parliamentary elections in late November.  A presidential vote is planned after the parliament is seated, and could be held at the end of next year.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.