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Egypt Condemns Western Outrage at Fatal Shooting of Protester

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By ROBERT MACKEY JAN. 27, 2015

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    Egypt’s Foreign Ministry expressed dismay on Tuesday that the killing of a female activist in Cairo, which occurred as riot police used force to disperse a peaceful protest, had drawn widespread condemnation from the West.

    The death of the activist, Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, on Saturday sparked outrage online in large part because it was so well-documented. Wrenching images of Ms. Sabbagh bleeding in the arms of a colleague who picked her up after her heart and lungs were pierced by shotgun pellets reverberated on social networks.

    Photo Graphic images of Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, an Egyptian activist who was shot and killed at a peaceful rally in Cairo on Saturday, sowed outrage on social networks. Credit Al Youm Al Saabi/Reuters

    While Interior Ministry officials initially denied that the police officers who were filmed firing in her direction had played any part in her death, the state prosecutor opened an investigation a day later, in the face of widespread skepticism and the testimony of numerous witnesses.

    The graphic images of Ms. Sabbagh’s last moments evoked comparisons to the fatal 2009 shooting of the Iranian protester Neda Agha-Soltan, who bled to death as two witnesses recorded the scene on their phones.

    That Ms. Sabbagh, 31, was engaged in a peaceful protest, with a handful of marchers carrying flowers to Tahrir Square in memory of those killed there in the Egyptian revolution four years ago, helped make her death a focus of anger at the police in a way that the death of at least 18 civilians in clashes the next day did not.

    The Foreign Ministry statement released Tuesday suggested that Western reports focusing more on the shooting of Ms. Sabbagh than on the clashes were “unbalanced.” Such “reviews” of the weekend’s violence, the ministry said, “failed to convey the reality, choosing to turn a blind eye to acts of killing, burning and horror conducted by supporters of the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood group,” which the authorities blamed for protests on Sunday, the fourth anniversary of the start of the 2011 uprising.

    “Western reports have also failed to shed light on an immediate decision by the prosecutor general to open a probe into the murder of activist Shaimaa al-Sabbagh and into acts of violence committed by the MB supporters,” the ministry added.

    Officials had repeatedly insisted on the day of the killing that the police were not responsible. The official line, that the security forces many Egyptians hold responsible for Ms. Sabbagh’s death are determined to find the real killer, was mocked in a bitter cartoon shared on Twitter on Tuesday by an Egyptian blogger.

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    ACAB pic.twitter.com/uMnNgTqIPw

    — `SuperMan AFC (@FawzyFathy) Jan. 27, 2015

    The illustration showed an image of Egypt’s interior minister, Mohamed Ibrahim, firing the fatal shot at the activist while saying, “The Ministry of the Interior is undertaking intense efforts to find the killers of Shaimaa al-Sabbagh.”

    Despite a legal ban on unsanctioned rallies introduced in late 2013, more than 1,700 women have responded to a Facebook invitation to attend a protest against Ms. Sabbagh’s killing on Thursday at the location where she died.

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    Cairo, Thursday: call for women to stand & protest in Talaat Harb on the spot where Shaimaa was murdered: https://t.co/AfbhqPNGkk …

    — Ahdaf Soueif (@asoueif) Jan. 26, 2015

    “A bullet pierced the chest of Shaimaa al-Sabbagh on Saturday afternoon the Jan. 24, 2015,” the organizers of the rally wrote on Facebook. “It claimed her life and was fired at the consciences of all those who witnessed the scene and did not stir. It was a major crime in broad daylight. The victim fell and the killer stood behind her.”

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    “We know the killers,” the statement added, “witnesses proved that it was the security forces that fired the bullet at her. But right now they are free thanks to the policy of killings followed nonstop by Egypt since the first days of the revolution.”

    “We will not remain silent about what happened,” the women pledged, “and we say that the Interior Ministry bullet that pierced Shaimaa’s chest here does not scare us away from standing in the same place.”

    The organizers said in an email to reporters that they would not request permission from the Interior Ministry as required by law, because they “reject the anti-protest law of 2013 and insist all those jailed under it should be freed.”

    One of those killed on Sunday, local news media reported, was a 10-year-old Coptic Christian boy, Mina Maher, who died during clashes in the Matariya district, a frequent flash point between Islamists and the police on the northern edge of Cairo.

    As images of his funeral on Monday circulated online, supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and of the authorities blamed each other for the boy’s death.

    A report on the funeral of a 10-year-old boy killed in clashes on Sunday, from Akhbar al-Youm, a state-owned newspaper. Video by Akhbar elyoumtv Correction: February 4, 2015

    An earlier version of this post misstated the age of Shaimaa al-Sabbagh at death. She was 31, not 32.

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