Intelligence services let camel battle happen, Brotherhood leader says

Freedom and Justice Party MP Mohamed al-Beltagy testified before the Cairo Criminal Court on Wednesday that a major general in the General Intelligence Services refused to secure Tahrir Square during the Battle of the Camel.

Beltagy said that the intelligence official claimed that he could not prevent Egyptian citizens, in this case the camel and horse riders, from expressing their opinions and storming the square.

He added that he was present on Tahrir Square on 2 and 3 February, and he received calls from people he did not know on the morning of 2 February telling him that supporters of the former regime were gathering in different parts of Cairo and Giza with the intention of heading to Tahrir to force the protesters out.

“At 2 pm, someone called my name and asked me to meet a security leader inside the office of the Safir Travel Agency [in Tahrir Square]. I entered the office and met with [him]. He identified himself as Major General Abdel Fattah of the General Intelligence Services. A group of demonstrators accompanied me,” Beltagy continued.

“The major general requested the evacuation of Tahrir Square to prevent bloodshed, and told me that he had information about the existence of groups of Mubarak supporters that were planning to enter Tahrir to clash with demonstrators.”

Beltagy testified that he asked, “'Mr. Major General, how would you allow these thugs to enter Tahrir Square?' The Major General answered, ‘They are Egyptian citizens who want to express their opinion of President Mubarak.’ I told him, ‘Cairo Stadium could be opened to them, it is big enough for thousands,’ to which he responded, ‘They want to express their opinion in Tahrir Square like yourselves, and I cannot stop them.’”

“The debate continued for nearly an hour, and before the end of meeting, I said, ‘Who will guarantee that if protesters leave the square and return to their homes they would get there safely after supporters of the former regime have surrounded the square from all sides?’ He replied, ‘We are responsible for you leaving the square safely, without anyone attacking you.’”

Presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq released statements last week blaming the Muslim Brotherhood for the Battle of the Camel. In response, Beltagy wrote on his Facebook page, “Mr. Shafiq, and whoever is behind him, took the conversation I had out of context so that we will be on the defensive and distracted from continuing to push for his disqualification.”

In Wednesday’s court session, preacher Safwat Hegazy’s attorney apologized for Hegazy’s absence, explaining that the preacher’s health was ill. The court asked for proof. Media personality Tawfiq Okasha, who had been summoned to testify, was also absent from the session.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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