Conflicting reports on detention of Alexandria protesters

CAIRO: Reports that a military court handed down three to 15-year prison sentences to Alexandria protesters amid clashes with military police on Friday, cannot be confirmed, activist and member of the No to Military Trials of Civilians campaign Mona Seif told Daily News Egypt Sunday.

“The prosecution is giving conflicting information. While lawyers were told that eleven protesters were sentenced to three to 15 years, their families were told that they just got 15 days pending investigation,” Seif added.

The protesters are said to be charged with vandalism of military property, attacking military officers and espionage.

“Lawyers will go tomorrow with the families of the protesters to the military prosecution to check out the situation,” Seif said.

It was a rare incident of violence in two weeks of largely peaceful protests in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, Cairo and the Suez following a court decision to free on bail seven policemen accused of killing protesters during the uprising that overthrew president Hosni Mubarak in February.

The violence in Alexandria and an incident in Suez angered hundreds of protesters camping in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, witnesses said.

They said a crowd of more than 1,000 began marching towards the headquarters of the ruling army council chanting “Down with Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi.” Witnesses said military police fired in the air to stop them approaching the building.

The military council, in a statement on its Facebook page, denied authorities used force against demonstrators anywhere in Egypt and accused the April 6 Movement, one of the groups behind the uprising, of trying to drive a wedge between the armed forces and the people.

Mother of Mohamed Mansour, detained in the Alexandria clashes and rumored to have received a seven-year prison sentence, told Daily News Egypt he got 15 days pending investigation in Al-Hadra police station and was told she has to go to military prosecution to issue a visiting permit.

“His friends told me he is injured and was taken to El-Shefa Hospital. I went there but could not find him. His friends also told me he did not clash with the army, but rather tried to calm the protesters down,” she said.

“Rumors circulating around social networking websites say that he got seven years, is that true? I know nothing about the fate of my son,” said his mother.

Witnesses said the clash in Alexandria erupted after hundreds of protesters blocking the coastal road near the army’s northern command headquarters refused to leave the area. Police fired shots in the air and charged at demonstrators who responded by hurling stones at them.

“The military police are firing in the air. They are also beating protesters with batons and kicking them hard,” a witness said.

Witnesses said up to 10 people were believed to have been hurt in the clashes. Many demonstrators fled but a group of men seized a police truck and set it on fire, witnesses said. –Additional reporting by Reuters.

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