| HRW + Anti-coup Egypt: Security forces used excessive lethal force!

Egypt: Security Forces Used Excessive Lethal Force ~ Human Rights Watch.
Worst Mass Unlawful Killings in Country’s Modern History! 

(New York) – Egyptian security forces’ rapid and massive use of lethal force to disperse sit-ins on August 14, 2013 led to the most serious incident of mass unlawful killings in modern Egyptian history.

The ongoing Human Rights Watch investigation indicates that the decision to use live ammunition on a large scale from the outset reflected a failure to observe basic international policing standards on use of lethal force and was not justified by the disruptions caused by the demonstrations or the limited possession of arms by some protesters. The failure of the authorities to provide safe exit from the sit-in, including for people wounded by live fire and needing urgent medical attention, was a serious violation of international standards.

Based on first-hand documentation and interviews with health workers by Human Rights Watch, and lists of the dead obtained by the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, the death toll during the dispersal of the Rab’a sit-in appears to be at least 377, significantly higher than the latest Rab’a death toll of 288 announced by the Health Ministry.

With the death toll rising day by day, Egypt’s military rulers should urgently reverse recent police instructions to use live ammunition to protect state buildings and use it only when strictly necessary to protect life.

“This excessive and unjustified use of lethal force is the worst possible response to the very tense situation in Egypt today,” said Joe Stork, acting Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Egypt’s military rulers should rein in police forces to prevent the country from spiraling into further violence. The military should not be encouraging police to use even more lethal force.”

According to the Ministry of Interior, the nationwide August 14 death toll of 638 includes 43 police officers. The dispersal sparked gunfights in the Cairo neighborhood of Mohandessin and an attack on a police station in Kerdassa, in greater Cairo, which left four policemen dead. Human Rights Watch spoke to witnesses, priests, and residents who confirmed that over the course of August 14, immediately following the dispersals, Islamists in at least nine cities attacked and burned at least 32 churches.

Over the following three days, clashes between security forces and Muslim Brotherhood protesters, and anti-Muslim Brotherhood protesters led to at least 173 additional deaths by August 18, according to the Ministry of Health.

Human Rights Watch is investigating the government’s dispersal of Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins at Rab’a al-Adawiya in Nasr City and at Nahda in Giza, in greater Cairo. Human Rights Watch staff interviewed 41 protesters, doctors, and residents from both areas, visited the Rab’a al-Adawiya Medical Center during the dispersal and later visited hospitals and morgues in Nasr City and Giza.

The most significant violence took place during the dispersal of the Rab’a sit-in. Human Rights Watch’s preliminary findings indicate that the security forces used excessive force in breaking up the sit-ins and unlawfully killed a number of unarmed protesters. Security forces failed to plan the operation to minimize the risk to life, including by ensuring safe exits and giving public orders not to kill except in a targeted manner when absolutely necessary.

Four residents told Human Rights Watch that at around 6:30 a.m. security services used loudspeakers to call on protesters to leave the sit-in via the Nasr Street exit. Around 10 to 15 minutes later, at around 6:45 a.m., riot police moved in on the Rab’a protest simultaneously from several sides shooting tear gas, rubber pellets and, very soon after, live bullets. It was not possible to establish whether the first use of live ammunition came from the side of security forces or protesters, but Human Rights Watch found no evidence to suggest that firing by protesters justified the quick resort by police to massive lethal force against largely unarmed protesters.

Two journalists who were present from the start and protesters told Human Rights Watch that they could not reach any of the exits after the security forces had started firing tear gas because of heavy gunfire coming from the direction of security forces. Dozens of women and children hid in the mosque.

Witnesses and video of the protests, as well as observations by Human Rights Watch staff, indicate that the vast majority of the protesters were unarmed, but some carried clubs and a few fired guns at the security forces. Witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch and video footage posted on YouTube indicate that the police unlawfully killed protesters who were clearly not engaged in any form of violence.

Video footage posted online that Human Rights Watch believes to be authentic shows a man being shot as he carries a blood-stained lifeless body. One protester, Ahmad Gamal, told Human Rights Watch that at one point he saw three men carrying a blood-stained, injured man and rushing toward a stage set up at the sit-in, when he heard the sound of gunfire and saw the three fall to the ground. He said he then helped carry away two of the bodies.

Other footage clearly shows unarmed men crouching near the remains of the main stage in Rab’a to hide from incessant gunfire. The footage shows two of them being shot and apparently killed, and a third shot in the leg. Some of the killings appeared to be deliberate, targeting people who posed no imminent threat to life at the time they were shot. One resident told Human Rights Watch she saw a policeman summarily execute a man walking in front of the officer. The man’s hands were on his head.

Egypt’s interim president, Adly Mansour, declared a curfew on the afternoon of August 14 and a one-month state of emergency. While some curfews may be legitimate and proportionate measures to reduce severe violence on the streets, the declaration of a state of emergency sends precisely the wrong signal, Human Rights Watch said. Security forces will read it as license for additional reckless and unlawful use of force, particularly given the long history of abuses carried out under states of emergency in Egypt.

“Given the riot police’s track record of routinely misusing lethal force, it’s crucial that Egypt’s military rulers publicly order security forces to use lethal force only when strictly necessary,” Stork said. “That means police should only shoot when faced with armed individuals threatening lives, and only to the extent necessary to address an immediate threat.”

The attacks on the sit-ins sparked serious sectarian violence. Since the ouster of Morsy sectarian tension has been on the rise, with leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood scapegoating Egyptian Christians as responsible for Morsy’s removal. Human Rights Watch has confirmed through interviews with witnesses that mobs chanting Islamist slogans attacked at least 32 churches. This violence left one Christian dead and at least 20 churches torched.

Security forces did little or nothing to protect churches, despite the high likelihood of such attacks. Human Rights Watch documented a rise in sectarian violence since Morsy’s ouster on July 3, with at least six major attacks on Christians in governorates across Egypt, including Luxor, Marsa Matrouh, Minya, North Sinai, Port Said, and Qena.

“Egyptian security officials bear responsibility not only for what they did in breaking up the protests but for their failure to protect churches and Christian communities against predictable reprisal attacks,” Stork said. “An impartial, credible and independent investigation is required to establish a full picture of events in Cairo and elsewhere on August 14 and to start the process of accountability.”

Break-up of the Rab’a al-Adawiya Sit-In 
Since the end of June, Muslim Brotherhood supporters had been holding a sit-in near the Rab’a al-Adawiya mosque in the eastern Cairo district of Nasr City. Using aerial photos, Human Rights Watch calculated that on August 2 there were at least 85,000 protesters present.

Security officials had for weeks been promising that the dispersal of the sit-in would be gradual, starting with a cordon around the sit-in and warnings and a safe exit, in particular for women and children. The Ministry of Interior issued statements on August 1 and 4 calling on protesters to leave the squares, but giving no timeframe for the dispersal.

At around 6:15 a.m. on August 14, approximately 15 minutes before the assault started, security officials used loudspeakers to urge residents to stay away from windows. Egyptian freelance journalist Maged Atef told Human Rights Watch he heard loudspeakers say that protesters should leave by the Nasr Street exit. One resident told Human Rights Watch that from around 8 a.m. onwards she heard loudspeaker announcements giving instructions for safe exit from Tayaran Street. But protesters and journalists told Human Rights Watch that once the dispersal had started, intense gunfire from security forces and tear gas made moving around impossible. The mother of one 15-year-old boy, for example, told Human Rights Watch that her son had called her from the sit-in when the dispersal started saying that he wanted to leave, but that he could not because there was shooting where the army had announced safe exits. The boy ended up sustaining a head-wound, apparently from rubber bullets according to doctors.

At 6:45 a.m. on August 14, riot police moved in on the sit-in from the entrance next to Tiba Mall on Nasr Street, and from the eastern entrances, firing tear gas canisters and shooting in the air. Security forces stationed on the roof of the nearby military intelligence building appear to have started shooting live ammunition almost from the start, although it is unclear who fired the first live bullet. A journalist said he first witnessed shooting at 6:45 a.m. at the eastern entrance to the sit-in on Youssef Abbas Street. A doctor at the sit-in clinic told Human Rights Watch that he received a first patient injured by live ammunition at 7 a.m.

Shooting continued over the next 10 hours, until around 5 p.m., according to numerous witnesses. Firing came from security forces stationed on rooftops as well as in police armored personnel carriers, and with some gunfire from the side of protesters. Women were among those killed, including 17-year-old Asmaa el Beltagy, daughter of Mohamed el Beltagy, a prominent figure in the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, an Egyptian freedom of expression organization, confirmed four journalists were shot dead: Mike Deane from Sky News, Habiba Abdelaziz from Gulf News, Mosaab al-Shamy from Rassd New, and Ahmad Abdelgawad from al-Akhbar.

Protester Violence 
At a news conference on August 14, the minister of interior said his forces had exercised “extreme restraint” and that 43 police officers had died, many of them at Rab’a al-Adawiya. A resident who had gone outside when he first heard the sound of shooting told Human Rights Watch that at around 7:30 a.m. he saw three dead police officers being carried out of the Tiba Mall shopping center near one of the entrances to the sit-in.

Accounts from witnesses and a review of video footage confirm that some gunfire was fired from the side of the protesters, in particular from around the Rab’a al-Adawiya mosque. For example, one resident said she saw at least three people with automatic rifles and hand guns at around 8:30 or 9:00 a.m. shooting towards police at Youssef Abbas Street. Statements by witnesses interviewed by Human Rights, including international journalists, and personal observations by a Human Rights Watch researcher who was in the area during the break-up, indicate that the vast majority of protesters were not in possession of, let alone displaying or using firearms. Witnesses said protesters lit fires using car tires and wood to mitigate against the effect of tear gas and threw broken pieces of the pavement at police.

International legal standards allow the use of force in limited circumstances, and the intentional use of lethal force is only permitted where strictly necessary to protect life, which would include individuals using firearms targeted at the police. However, while security services may be justified in using a degree of force to stop protesters from throwing stones or Molotov cocktails, protesters’ violence cannot justify use of lethal force, let alone on the scale witnessed on August 14. Those planning the dispersal operations were under a strict duty to take all feasible measures to ensure the operations posed a minimal risk to life, which the organizers comprehensively failed to do.

Higher Death Toll 
Injured and killed protesters were brought to two main “field hospitals” at the sit-in: three rooms attached to the mosque where protesters had stocked basic medical supplies, and the Rab’a al-Adawiya medical clinic, a four-story building with basic medical equipment.

On the morning of August 15, Human Rights Watch staff at the Iman mosque on Makram Ebeid street counted 235 bodies which had been brought from the field hospital and the Rab’a Medical Center at the sit-in. Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that another seven bodies arrived at the mosque later. Since the bodies had not been taken to a government facility, it is unlikely they were included in the ministry of health death toll, which at that time was 102 for Rab’a. In addition,a senior official at the nearby Demerdash hospital said that 20 people from Rab’a died in that hospital from their injuries. Later on August 14, the cabinet announced that the ministry of health would no longer issue death tolls and that going forward only the cabinet would be authorized to publish numbers.

On August 14 protesters had to leave the bodies in Rab’a when the police evicted them from the clinics at 5 p.m. Two men told Human Rights Watch on August 15 that police had allowed them to return to collect bodies from 8 p.m. onwards, and they helped bring them to the Iman mosque.

A local resident told Human Rights Watch that at 8:25 p.m. on August 14 she saw from her apartment a stream of men carrying bodies walk past, that and her cousins had gone to help carry the bodies. A resident on Makram Ebeid Street told Human Rights Watch that at around 9:30 p.m. he had seen a car with two bodies on the roof drive down the street towards the Iman mosque.

Human Rights Watch visited the Rab’a Medical Center, at 3:30 p.m. on August 14, and viewed 64 bodies there. Dr Mohamed Abdelaziz, working at the center, told Human Rights Watch that all but one had been killed by live ammunition, with shots to the head and chest, and that one man had been burnt to death in his tent. One building guard told Human Rights Watch that he had helped carry out two men who had been in their tent when it was set on fire and that one of them had died in a building entrance where they were treating people.

Video footage of nine of those carried into the clinic show that two appeared to have been shot in the chest, five in the back of the head, and two in the face.

Unlawful Killings 
A resident whose flat overlooks one of the side-entrances told Human Rights Watch that at around 6 p.m. there were only two policemen on Mohandessin Askariyeen Street with a group of half a dozen prisoners:

I heard one policeman yelling, “Yalla, walk from here to there,” and you could hear his voice trembling. There was a queue of [around 6] men, they were walking with their hands on heads. The policeman suddenly fired and then I saw a man on the ground. He killed this man for nothing.

Injured protester Mohamed Ali told Human Rights Watch on August 14, as he lay with his right leg bloodied and bandaged in the Rab’a Medical Center, that he had been standing next to his tent, towards the front of Nasr Street when police moved in and he was shot in his right leg above the knee.

Protester Mostafa El Sayed from Daqahliya said that he hid behind a car when the police first moved in at around 6:45 a.m. near the Rab’a al-Adawiya medical center. He said shooting was coming from all directions and that a man next to him was shot in the side. He said he also saw a policeman who was shot.

Journalist Mohamed Hamdy said he was filming on Youssef Abbas Street at 7 a.m. when a man standing next to him was shot in the chest and fell to the ground. Another protester, 26-year-old Abdelmonim, said that just before 7 a.m. he was on Anwar Mofty Street when the police started moving in with tear gas:

We heard the sound of gunshots straight away with the tear gas. I tried to hide because the shooting was everywhere. While I was there I saw three people being shot and fall to the ground, one shot in the eye and one in the side.

Frequent sniper fire in the side streets coming from the direction of where security forces were stationed also killed and injured bystanders. Ain Shams University professor Mostafa Sharif said he had been hiding from sniper fire in Sebawiya al- Masry Street near Rab’a al-Adawiya school at around 8:30 a.m., and saw five people shot and fall to the ground.

No safe exit for wounded 
When Human Rights Watch visited the Rab’a al-Adawiya medical clinic at 3:30 p.m. on August 14, new cases of people shot with live ammunition were constantly entering the clinic, mostly men but also one woman. Doctors were operating on men in the passageways and the clinic was overflowing with injured lying on the ground. There was constant gunfire outside. One volunteer told Human Rights Watch staff to stay away from the passageway next to the stairwell because bullets were being shot through the building by security forces; a journalist in the building confirmed seeing that happen.

For at least 10 hours, the only way for anyone on the outside to enter the clinic inside the main protest area was to run across a street braving sniper fire directed almost constantly into the protest area. During that period gunmen apparently from the sit-in fired some shots back at the security forces. Ambulance workers could go only as far as Anwar al-Mofty street but not cross the 20 meters of sniper fire to access those critically wounded in the clinic. One doctor inside the clinic told Human Rights Watch that the clinic did not have proper equipment for surgical operations but “there’s not much we can do, ambulances can’t reach us.”

At times, four men would brave the gunfire and run across the road carrying a wounded person on a stretcher to ambulances waiting outside. Human Rights Watch spoke to two people outside the medical center who said they had seen an ambulance worker shot dead at around 2 p.m. A Human Rights Watch researcher witnessed the shooting of a man not displaying any weapons or using or threatening any violence as he left the clinic and headed across the road. The fire came from the direction of security forces, towards the sit-in. He fell to the ground, blood seeping out of his head, but was able to crawl to safety.

The live fire at the entrance to the medical center meant that the wounded had no safe way of getting medical help. Constant fire from rooftop security forces towards the mosque and buildings adjacent to the clinic prevented medical staff from saving lives over that ten-hour period, Human Rights Watch said.

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| Egypt: Troops committed ‘mass unlawful killings’, watchdog says – live!

Egypt: Troops committed ‘mass unlawful killings’, watchdog says – live ~  and theguardian.com.

• Mubarak lawyer says former president could be freed
• New charges against Morsi, Reuters reports 
• 25 police officers executed in Sinai 
• Read the latest blog summary

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak waves to his supporters inside a cage in a courtroom at the police academy in Cairo, in this file picture taken April 13, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer/FilesFormer Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak waves to his supporters inside a cage in a courtroom at the police academy in Cairo, in this file picture taken April 13, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer/Files

7.09pm BST

Basil El-Dabh of Daily News Egypt observes Cairo observing the nightly curfew:

Zamalek, 8 pm pic.twitter.com/ivSFL9PaRL

— Basil الضبع (@basildabh) August 19, 2013

6.57pm BST

McClatchy’s Hannah Allam is tracking today’s US State Department briefing, dominated so far by Egypt:

Q. Are US and #SaudiArabia on opposite sides in #Egypt? State: We all want to get Egypt back on track, nothing further for you on this

— Hannah Allam (@HannahAllam) August 19, 2013

State Dept: We have a decades-long relationship w/#Egypt that we hope will continue. We hope they can cont on path to sustainable democracy

— Hannah Allam (@HannahAllam) August 19, 2013

Updated at 6.58pm BST

6.50pm BST

Sara Hussein of the AFP files a harrowing report from Zeinhom morgue in Cairo, overwhelmed by decaying bodies, frustrated family members and angry onlookers:

Outside a morgue in Egypt’s capital, a woman mediates between her parents. Her mother cannot believe the decomposing body before them is their son. Her father insists that it is.

“What’s going on? Why hasn’t anyone claimed this body,” shouts one man, a surgical mask pulled below his mouth.

“The family can’t decide if it’s him,” another man yells back.

“The father says it’s his son, but the mother says it isn’t.”

A woman in a black dress and head scarf clutching a picture of a young man agrees to try to identify the body.

“I’m the daughter,” she says, reluctant at first to see the face of the body lying wrapped in a white sheet inside a crude wooden box.

The situation at #Cairo‘s Zeinhom morgue is so distressing. Completely overwhelmed, and local thugs there stirred up trouble for media.

— Sara Hussein (@sarahussein) August 19, 2013

Clouds of flies hover above it, some landing on the chunks of ice placed on top of the corpse in an attempt to slow decomposition.

“Does he have a mark by his eye?” she asks the men standing around the body, in an apparent bid to avoid having to view the corpse.

Some say yes, others say no, and so the sheet is unwrapped, revealing a face dark and different, but still that of the young man in her photo.

Read the full report here.

6.42pm BST

Earnest is asked about the announcement Sunday by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal that Saudi Arabia would fill any financial gaps left by Western countries withdrawing aid from Egypt. Reuters reported on the Sunday announcement:

Speaking to state news agency SPA in Jeddah after visiting France on Sunday, Prince Saud also accused Western countries of tacitly encouraging Muslim Brotherhood violence with their criticism of the Egyptian military.

“To those who have declared they are stopping aid to Egypt or are waving such a threat, the Arab and Muslim nations are wealthy with their people and resources and will not shy away from offering a helping hand to Egypt,” he said.

The White House spokesman pleads ignorance of the announcement: “I haven’t actually seen that announcement from the Saudis,” Earnest says.

6.35pm BST

“No decision has been made to withhold any aid,” Earnest says.

6.35pm BST

Earnest restates the White House condemnation of the security forces’ killing of protesters:

“It is evident that a large number of people who were peaceful protesters were the victims of violence that was committed by the interim government of Egypt,” he says. The action, Earnest says, “does not reflect [the interim government] commitment to begin an inclusive process to make that transition back to democracy.”

6.32pm BST

Earnest is asked what real force there is behind the US threat to cancel aid to Egypt, given the much greater flow of money toward Cairo from the Gulf. Earnest skips the question and gives a pat answer about how the US will make aid decisions based on its interests and the law.

Then a more provocative question: Is the White House worried that if it stops aid to Egypt, the generals will stop protecting US assets in Egypt?

“I would characterize the relationship as important beyond just the military cooperation,” Earnest says. As examples, he redundantly mentions economic support and IMF assistance, then he says ensuring tourism is an important (mutual?) concern. Not on Earnest’s list: the security of Israel.

6.21pm BST

Earnest is asked about whether the US is considering changing its approach on Egypt. He says there are ongoing high-level conversations and the US side has told Egypt that they must “transition back” to a democratically elected government. He mentions the delay of the F-16s delivery and the cancellation of joint military exercises.

Nothing new there.

6.17pm BST

White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest has opened the daily briefing.

First question about possible Mubarak release and Morsi detention. How alarming is that for the president?

I don’t have any specific conversations to read out to you, Earnest says. Then he declines comment on Mubarak:

The legal proceedings against former president Mubarak.. that is an Egyptian legal matter, and something that I’ll leave for them to determine. It’s not something that I’m gonna weigh in on from here.

5.59pm BST

Ahmed Maher and Joanna Mikhail, filmmakers with the Atlantic Council group EgyptSource, interview Egyptians about lethal security forces raids to break up pro-Morsi sit-ins, the resignation from the government of Mohamed ElBaradei and the burning of churches.

Visit the EgyptSource web site here.

(h/t: @nfm)

5.38pm BST

Al-Jazeera has published an interactive timeline of clashes on the Sinai peninsula going back to the shooting death by government forces of a Bedouin protester in January 2011.

5.23pm BST

In a new report, Human Rights Watch says government forces killed “at least 377” people at Raba’a al-Atawiya mosque last Wednesday as troops broke up pro-Morsi demonstrations, in what the report calls a “massive use of lethal force,” “the most serious incident of mass unlawful killings in modern Egyptian history” and “a serious violation of international standards”:

The ongoing Human Rights Watch investigation indicates that the decision to use live ammunition on a large scale from the outset reflected a failure to observe basic international policing standards on use of lethal force and was not justified by the disruptions caused by the demonstrations or the limited possession of arms by some protesters. The failure of the authorities to provide safe exit from the sit-in, including for people wounded by live fire and needing urgent medical attention, was a serious violation of international standards, Human Rights Watch said.

Based on first-hand documentation and interviews with health workers by Human Rights Watch, and lists of the dead obtained by the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, the death toll during the dispersal of the Rab’a sit-in appears to be at least 377, significantlyhigher than the latest Rab’a death toll of 288 announced by the Health Ministry.

Read the full report here.

Updated at 5.42pm BST

4.58pm BST

Summary

Here’s a summary of developments so far today in/on Egypt. On the horizon for this afternoon is the daily White House briefing scheduled for 1pm ET.

• State prosecutors have brought new charges against President Mohamed Morsi for an alleged role in “violent acts” committed during protests last December, state news reported. Morsi, who has not been heard from in seven weeks and whose location is unknown, faces several layers of charges directed by the government that replaced him.

• Reports of the new charges emerged as activist groups called for an investigation into the killing of 36 Morsi supporters while they were in state custody. It was the fourth mass killing since last Wednesday. In all an estimated 1,000 people, mostly Morsi backers, have been killed in clashes and executions in the last week.

• 25 off-duty police officers were killed in Sinai in an ambush by unidentified militants. The militants stopped two buses carrying the officers, removed them and executed them.

• As Morsi fades out, Mubarak fades in: the fallen strongman’s lawyer said Mubarak could be freed within 48 hours, although that estimate conflicted with reports of procedural matters, at least, that would delay any release. An Egyptian court was said to order that Mubarak be released.

• The EU is meeting today to “urgently review” its relations with Egypt,  British foreign secretary William Hague said.

4.36pm BST

The new charges against Morsi tie him to “violent acts,” according to the state news as quoted by Reuters:

Egypt’s public prosecutor ordered on Monday the detention of deposed President Mohamed Mursi for 15 days pending an investigation into allegations he participated in “violent acts”, state news agency MENA said.

On Thursday, Egyptian judicial authorities extended Mursi’s detention period for 30 days in a separate case.

Mursi, who was overthrown by the army on July 3, is being held at an undisclosed location on allegations of murder and spying. The new case centres on protests that took place in front of the presidential palace last December, MENA said.

The palace was the scene of huge opposition – as in anti-Morsi-government opposition – protests last December.

4.26pm BST

Tom McCarthy in New York here taking over for Sam Jones in London.

Reuters is reporting new charges against deposed President Mohamed Morsi: “Egypt prosecutor orders deposed President Morsi detained for 15 days in new case of inciting violence.”

The irony of Morsi being accused of inciting violence as hundreds of his supporters are killed in the streets is potent. Morsi, of course, is already under detention and has not been publicly seen or heard from in seven weeks.

Updated at 4.28pm BST

3.29pm BST

More on the press conference Ian Black mentioned before.

This morning the Egyptian Anti-Coup Alliance called for a formal investigation into yesterday’s killing of dozens of imprisoned protesters, reports al-Jazeera.

In an address to the media the group, which comprises supporters of Morsi, demanded an “international investigation into this horrific crime, in addition to other crimes committed by leaders of the 3rd of July [coup].”

According to Egyptian security forces, the protesters died from suffocation after tear gas was fired to stop them from escaping. But the Anti-Coup Alliance have disputed this version of affairs. Al-Jazeera has reported a statement, which says:

The true account is not out yet, we have received three contradictory statements.

On Sunday the Anti-Coup Alliance said they had “obtained evidence of the assassination of anti-coup detainees in a truck transferring them to Abu Zaabal prison.”

In this morning’s conference, the Anti-Coup Alliance are reported to have said:

We approached the chief attorney and requested a commission be formed and as we speak, the chief prosecutor has not taken any steps.

3.26pm BST

A bit more on Mubarak, courtesy of Reuters:

The former president’s trial has continued despite the army intervention against Islamist rule but, perhaps tellingly, the families of those killed in the uprising have ceased to attend the court.

One lawyer who has acted for those families said Mubarak is unlikely to be freed given the political divisions that have shaken the country since the army overthrew Morsi.

Mohammed Rashwan told Reuters that there remained some pending legal suits that could give the judiciary enough latitude to refuse Mubarak’s release. He said:

This is bigger than a legal problem. This is a political problem because Mubarak’s exit at this moment would tip the situation in favour of the Brotherhood. This is not a desirable outcome and one the current regime would not allow.

If Mubarak comes out at this time, the Brotherhood will exploit it to the utmost extent and claim that what is happening in Egypt is a return to the former regime.

3.22pm BST

Egypt's interim deputy prime minister and defence minister, armed forces General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi (centre) and its interior minister, Mohammed Ibrahim, (left) attend a meeting with Egypt's interim President Adli Mansour.
Egypt’s interim deputy prime minister and defence minister, armed forces General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi (centre) and its interior minister, Mohammed Ibrahim, (left) attend a meeting with Egypt’s interim President Adli Mansour. Photograph: HANDOUT/REUTERS

3.17pm BST

IRAQ

Iraq’s justice ministry says it has hanged 17 convicted prisoners, all but one for “terrorism”, shrugging off calls from international human rights organisations to reconsider using capital punishment.

In a statement issued on Monday, the ministry said that authorities had executed 15 Iraqis and an Egyptian convicted of terrorism for “carrying out crimes against Iraqi people”.

The last was convicted of another unspecified criminal offence. Two of those hanged were women. It didn’t say when the executions were carried out.

The hangings brought the total number of executions in Iraq this year to 67. (Via AP)

3.10pm BST

In a very bleak blog, Neil Durkin of Amnesty International asks whether Egypt is “teetering on the edge of something worse”.

One basic thing needs to be said very clearly. While there have been attacks on the security forces (including on police stations), the Egyptian security forces have generally behaved with reckless trigger-happiness and on a massive scale. People – men, women and children – have been burned to death in their protest tents. Snipers in black uniforms have shot at people from rooftops, apparently sometimes firing at whoever was in their sights. A hospital and other medical facilities have been attacked as if they were military targets. Doctors have been stopped from getting urgent medical help for gravely wounded people. These are serious crimes from a security apparatus already saturated in the blood of (mostly) peaceful protesters (read some testimonies here).

The perpetrators – whether from the Interior Ministry’s Central Security Forces (CSF), its Special Forces, or some other wing of the police-army establishment – need to be brought to justice. Amnesty has called for outside intervention, including from Christof Heynes, the UN’s senior specialist on extrajudicial executions, and the scale of events surely warrants this. Plus the authorities have a dire track record of investigating past killings of this kind. With the country looking as if it could to be on the edge of something even worse – a descent into street fighting and martial law?, a “new dark age” of repressive military dictatorship?, a civil war? – this is surely the time for outside experts to try to avert the worst and undo some of the damage.

3.03pm BST

A very interesting tweet from the BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner.

#Saudi reportedly ready with other Arab nations to increase $ to #Egypt if western nations cut aid over crackdown

— Frank Gardner (@FrankRGardner) August 19, 2013

2.55pm BST

One of the odder consequences of the unrest comes courtesy of the Times of Israel, which reports that several Egyptian television channels have decided to boycott popular Turkish dramas and soap operas after Turkey’s prime minister called for Egypt’s military leaders to be tried for their role in the ongoing violence.

Tarek Nour, who owns the Al-Kahera Wal Nas television channel, told Aal-Arabiya that the financial loss that his station would likely suffer for the boycott was a price worth paying to protest what he called Turkey’s “narrow-minded” view of Egyptian events.

As most Turkish soap operas are privately produced, the boycott is considered unlikely to affect the government directly, but Nour said that hopefully the move would nevertheless apply pressure to Ankara.

2.41pm BST

Israel is quietly and carefully watching the turmoil in Egypt while maintaining close contacts with the Egyptian military amid concerns that the escalating crisis could weaken their common battle against Islamic militants in the Sinai Peninsula, reports AP.

As the week’s death toll in Egypt rises, this alliance has put Israel in a delicate position. Wary of being seen as taking sides in the Egyptian military’s standoff against Islamist supporters of the ousted president, Israel also needs the Egyptian army to maintain quiet along their shared border and to preserve a historic peace treaty.

The 1979 peace treaty, Israel’s first with an Arab country, has been a cornerstone of regional security for three decades. It has allowed Israel to divert resources to volatile fronts with Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. For Egypt, it opened the way to billions of dollars in US military aid.

Although diplomatic relations have never been close, the two militaries have had a good working relationship. These ties have only strengthened since longtime President Hosni Mubarak was ousted two and a half years ago. With both armies battling extremist Jihadi groups in the Sinai Peninsula, near the Israeli border, Israeli security officials often say that relations with their Egyptian counterparts are stronger than ever.

With so much at stake, Israel has remained quiet since the Egyptian military ousted Mubarak’s Islamist successor, Mohammed Morsi, last month.

Israel has not commented on this week’s bloodshed, in which the Egyptian troops killed hundreds of Morsi’s supporters who were rallying against the coup and demanding that he be reinstated.

Giora Eiland, a former chairman of Israel’s National Security Council, said:

Israel does not have to support the (Egyptian) regime, especially not publicly. It is not our place to defend all the measures taken, this is not our business.

At the same time, Eiland suggested the international condemnations of the Egyptian military’s actions have been excessive. He said Israeli and Western interests were “much closer” to the interests of Egypt’s military leader, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and his secular allies.

Even if we don’t share the same values, we can share the same interests. The Israeli interest is quite clear. We want a stable regime in Egypt.

Updated at 2.55pm BST

2.35pm BST

A Palestinian protester carries a placard during a rally in support of ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, in Gaza City on Monday. Photograph: Ashraf Amra/ZUMA Press/Corbis
A Palestinian protester carries a placard during a rally in support of ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, in Gaza City on Monday. Photograph: Ashraf Amra/ZUMA Press/Corbis