Middle East

Egypt authorities accused of cover-up over deadly clashes

Relatives of those killed in Monday's clashes in Cairo plead with mortuary officials for their bodies to be released (9 July 2013)
Image caption Bodies are allegedly not being released unless relatives accept official reports

After Monday's desperate and violent scenes, Cairo is still incredibly tense.

The Muslim Brotherhood sit-in at the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque continues, as the Islamist group demands the reinstatement of the deposed President, Mohammed Morsi.

Some of those shot dead in clashes with security forces near the Presidential Guard barracks, to the north of the mosque, have been buried, but there are also allegations that officials are trying to suppress what really happened.

When we arrived at Cairo's central mortuary, some people were banging on the doors - demanding to be let in. They simply wanted to see and collect the bodies of those killed.

Mothers, brothers and friends sat in the baking sun waiting, as the bolted doors remained shut and they were met by the blank stares of officials through a tiny grille.

They told us that bodies were not being released for burial unless they accepted, without question, the official post-mortem reports.

'Exceptional circumstances'

Among those looking for his friend was Khaled Mahmoud, from the city of Luxor, some 650km (400 miles) to the south of the capital.

"My friend, Abdel Basit, died when he was shot as he was praying," said Khaled, who had been standing in the dusty courtyard all day. "There are lots of bodies in there but we want the post-mortem report and we still don't have it."

A few metres away, a clearly agitated and angry man picked up a huge stick and waved it around - angry because the official report said his brother had died after being shot in the chest.

He screamed that he had seen his brother's body on Monday with a huge bullet wound in the back of his head.

What these people alleged was that Egypt's new military-backed interim authorities are covering up what took place outside the Presidential Guard barracks.

Ismail Rashid al-Mouhami, a lawyer representing some of the families, says basic principles of law are being deliberately ignored by the army and its supporters in the media.

"All normal legal procedures to see the bodies have been stopped," he told me. "These are exceptional circumstances."

"No-one from the public prosecutor's office is allowed here to see the bodies, but if you want to quietly take the body [of your loved one] away and just get a permit to bury them then they give it to you and put an end to the story."

"If you want more than that, then you are stuck outside here."

Anger and division

Most pro-government media outlets have played down what some people are calling a "massacre".

Where it is mentioned, it is usually in the context of the official version of events - that armed militants sparked the clashes by attacking the barracks, and that among the dead were at least two soldiers.

Amid the chaos and the tension, Egypt's interim leader, Adly Mansour, has begun the process of putting together a government.

On Tuesday night, at the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, the army also released a statement calling on all Egyptians to follow the right track and be assured that was that their country faced a bright future.

To many, that all sounds rather premature given the anger and division out on the streets.

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