Confusion looming over dead bodies’ autopsies after Maspero violence

Families of 17 people killed last night when military forces attacked a mostly Coptic protest have all agreed to request autopsies, according to activists who have been speaking with the families.

The 17 bodies are being held at the Coptic Hospital, near to the site of Sunday night's violence.

The Health Ministry announced that 24 people died after a march against anti-Christian attacks to the Maspero state TV building turned into fierce clashes and protesters were shot with gunfire and run over by military vehicles.

At the hospital, confusion is looming as to when funeral processions will start and whether autopsies should be conducted.

Families have been hesitant to have autopsies conducted on their loved ones.

"Why do we need autopsies? We all saw what happened and there is no need to cut into the bodies for no reason. The martyrs are pure now," said one family member earlier today.

Priests at the hospital tried to convince families to allow doctors to conduct autopsies to discover whether the killings occurred as a result of military bullets or through being run over by vehicles. Independent doctors are also present at the hospital, attempting to oversee procedures and prevent any irregularities.

"We learned from the 25 January revolution that it is very important to conduct autopsies to know exactly what sort of bullets were fired and how they were found in the dead bodies," said Taher Abul Nasr, a lawyer standing with the families of the victims at the hospital.

He said the general prosecutor sent forensic doctors to conduct external examinations of the bodies. But no autopsies were ordered.

"If a family requests an autopsy, there is absolutely no way they can be denied," said Amir Salem, a human rights lawyer.

A hospital report on one of the deceased consulted by Al-Masry Al-Youm showed that the death was caused by gunfire, which is deemed insufficient by activists. 

Abul Nasr says that the families must demand that autopsies be conducted.

The family of Mina Danial, a young deceased protester, asked for an autopsy. Other families think the autopsies are only needed to determine if there are drugs present in a body. They said they fear reports will accuse the deceased of being on drugs, as happened with Khaled Saeed, a man who was beaten to death in Alexandria last year.

Saeed was allegedly tortured to death by policemen in Alexandria in the summer of 2010, and forensic authorities' initial report said he died due to swallowing drugs. The case provoked mass public outrage against the police.

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