Egypt probes military rulers for protest deaths

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CAIRO — Egypt launched an investigation today of the country’s former military rulers for their alleged role in the killing of protesters during their 18 months in power, an unprecedented civilian probe into the affairs of an army that has traditionally shielded itself from outside scrutiny.

International and local rights groups have pressed Egypt’s newly elected president to hold to account the council of military officers who ruled the country from the February 2011 overthrow of Hosni Mubarak to this summer. At least 120 protesters died in clashes with security forces and soldiers during this time.

A court official named judge Tharwat Hamad as leading the probe of accusations against Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, and the other generals who sat on the body that ran Egypt during the 18-month transitional period.

But investigation is up against what rights groups call the military’s culture of impunity, as well a decree passed by SCAF before giving up power that protects members from civilian investigation even after they are out of service.

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