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October 11, 2012 11:04 pm
Egypt’s public prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, has defied Mohamed Morsi, the new Islamist president, who tried to dismiss him to defuse tensions over the acquittal of 24 former regime loyalists charged with hiring hundreds of thugs to attack protesters during last year’s uprising.
State media said on Thursday evening that Mr Abdel Meguid, the prosecutor, had been appointed Egypt’s ambassador to the Vatican. The president does not have the authority to sack the prosecutor, so the appointment to a diplomatic post appeared to suggest Mr Abdel Meguid had been persuaded to resign.
A statement from the prosecutor, however, said that he remained in his post and would continue to carry out his responsibilities signalling defiance to Mr Morsi and potentially paving the ground for a confrontation between the president and judiciary.
Mr Morsi’s attempt to dismiss the prosecutor came on the eve of demonstrations planned by activists for Friday to express rage at the acquittals in what is known as the trial of the “the battle of the Camel”. This refers to one of the most notorious episodes during last year’s 18-day uprising, when an army of thugs, some mounted on horses and camels, charged into Tahrir Square in an attempt to disperse tens of thousands of protesters.
The ensuing clashes, which lasted for 16 hours, marked a watershed during the uprising by hardening public sentiment against Hosni Mubarak, the former president
More than 800 people were killed during the uprising, but hardly anyone, apart from Mr Mubarak and his interior minister, has been convicted for their deaths. Dozens of policemen have faced trial around the country in relation to the killings, but almost all have been acquitted.
Lawyers have complained that the prosecution service has presented shoddy cases, failing to carry out meticulous preparation aimed at securing convictions. The police, tasked with collecting evidence that might have been used to convict their colleagues and superiors, are also said to have done a poor job.
In one case, a police general was convicted of tampering with evidence by destroying recordings of internal police communications during the uprising. Footage from security cameras in Tahrir Square was withheld from the court on the pretext that it had been erased and recorded over.
An aide to Mr Morsi told a television programme that an independent committee would conduct and investigate the “battle of the Camel” with a view to holding a fresh trial.
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