Last Updated: Tue Dec 20, 2011 22:37 pm (KSA) 19:37 pm (GMT)

Egypt’s military ‘regrets transgression’ against female protesters

An injured female protester is taken by motorbike for treatment during clashes with riot police in a side street near Tahrir Square in Cairo. (Reuters)
An injured female protester is taken by motorbike for treatment during clashes with riot police in a side street near Tahrir Square in Cairo. (Reuters)

Egypt’s military on Tuesday “strongly regretted” what it called “transgressions” against protesters, in a statement addressed to women after soldiers beat and stripped a female demonstrator.

The military would take legal action against those responsible for the abuse, said the statement, which came after a women’s march in Cairo denouncing attacks on female protesters.

“The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces expresses its strong regret to the great women of Egypt over transgressions that occurred during recent incidents in the protests outside parliament and the cabinet,” it said in the statement.

The military respected women’s right to take part in protests and had taken “all legal measures to hold accountable the people responsible for these violations,” said the statement posted on the military’s Facebook page.

Pictures and video of soldiers beating and partly stripping a veiled woman as they dragged her sparked outrage in Egypt, where clashes between anti-military protesters and security forces marked their fifth day on Tuesday.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday accused post-revolution Egypt of failing its women as she denounced the stripping and beating of the female protester as “shocking.”

In unusually strong language, she accused Egypt’s new leaders of mistreating women both on the street and in politics since the popular revolt that overthrew president Hosni Mubarak in February.

“This systematic degradation of Egyptian women dishonors the revolution, disgraces the state and its uniform, and is not worthy of a great people,” said Clinton.

Held accountable

Earlier on Tuesday, a military official said personnel accused of taking part in violent clashes and human rights violations against protesters will be prosecuted by military courts.

As clashes between protesters and soldiers firing guns and teargas entered a fifth day, military officials want to show that anyone accused of having a role in bloody crackdowns on previous protests will be held to account.

“The media circulated an argument that no legal actions were taken against those who ran over protesters near Maspero and we say that the case is being looked by the Supreme Military Court,” head of the Military Judiciary Authority, General Adel Morsi, said in a statement.

More than 25 people were killed in clashes that erupted during a demonstration by Christians on Oct. 9, an incident now commonly known as the “Maspero” events.

Public anger has been mounting against ruling generals, who replaced deposed President Hosni Mubarak in February, accusing them of mismanaging the transitional period and blaming them for a series of violent crackdowns on protesters demanding an end to military rule.

The latest round of violence, which left 13 dead and hundreds injured, broke out after the second stage of a six-week election for Egypt’s new parliament that starts a slow countdown to the army’s return to barracks. The military has pledged to hand power to an elected president by July.

During the Maspero incident protesters said military police used excessive force, firing live ammunition and driving armored vehicles into the crowds. The army defended their action and blamed “foreign elements” and other agitators for the violence.

Morsi also said cases of reported forced “virginity tests” on detained female protesters last April had also been transferred to the Supreme Military Court.

Rights activists have repeatedly criticized investigations led by the military saying they lacked transparency and impartiality, deeming their results as untrustworthy.

“There can’t be an investigation without transparency ... when victims’ lawyers ask for information, they refuse to give it to them, which is a procedural violation,” Heba Morayef of Human Rights Watch said.

Soldiers have been filmed in the latest protests using batons to beat demonstrators even after they have fallen to the ground. Many of those beaten had been hurling stones.

Protesters are demanding the prosecution of army generals holding them responsible for the violence.

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