Prosecutor-general denies Egypt army abuse allegations

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A report by an Egyptian fact-finding mission does not contain any evidence that the military committed human rights abuses against protesters during the January 25 revolution, claimed Prosecutor General Talaat Abdallah on Monday, according to a report in Egyptian paper al-Masry al-Youm.

Mursi created the fact-finding mission soon after he took office in June to investigate the allegations of torture and other human rights abuses that took place during 18-day uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and the nearly 17-month rule by the military that followed his ouster.

The report was finalized in December but has yet to be released publicly.

British newspaper, The Guardian, quoted leaked parts of the report on Wednesday, describing the military’s torture of detained protesters, its role in the forced disappearance of others, and its alleged responsibility for a number of killings of some who went missing and then turned up dead with signs of torture and beatings during protests against Mubarak.

More than 1,000 people, including many prisoners, are said to have gone missing during the 18 days of the revolt alone.

The leaked findings are consistent with previous allegations against the military, made by international and local rights groups. The portions published by The Guardian provide specific testimonies and details of abuses, which the military has always denied.

Abdallah claims the leaks were misleading, stating the report only had “intimations that could not be interpreted as evidence.”

President Mursi also made a strong show of unity with the military in light of the leaked sections of the report.
Standing by the country’s top general he warned, in a statement broadcast Friday, against “slandering” the armed forces.

The findings could put Mursi in a sensitive position. After vowing to win justice for slain protesters in his election campaign, he commissioned the report soon after his inauguration in June, forming a fact-finding panel to investigate the deaths of Egyptian protesters. But now in office, he needs the backing of the powerful military, and following up on the mission’s findings would likely bring a backlash from the generals.

Any attempt to prosecute members of the military would likely cause uproar in the army. At any rate, the newly adopted, Islamist-backed, constitution protects much of the independence and privileges of the military and introduced new clauses that ensure only the military can prosecute its own members.

On Friday, Human Rights Watch urged Mursi to release the report, saying it would be an acknowledgement of two years of military and police abuse, and a way to stem a culture of impunity.

Heba Morayef, Egypt’s director at Human Rights Watch, said the fact that a formal government commission documented such abuses and recommended questioning senior military officers is a “very serious fact” that can’t be underestimated.

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