- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 19, 2011

CAIRO (AP) — At least 846 Egyptians died in the nearly three-week-long popular uprising that toppled long-serving President Hosni Mubarak, electrifying the region, a government fact-finding mission announced Tuesday.

In their report, the panel of judges described police forces shooting protesters in the head and chest with live ammunition and presented a death toll more than twice that of previous official estimates.

“The fatal shots were due to firing bullets at the head and the chest,” the report read, adding that “a huge number of eye injures” filled hospitals and hundreds lost their sight.

Earlier official estimates put out by a Mubarak associate put the toll from the days of demonstrations, in which protesters battled heavily armed legions of riot police, at 365, but local groups had put the figure much higher.

The mission held Mr. Mubarak ultimately responsible for the killing of the protesters since his interior minister, Habib el-Adly, issued the orders to open fire.

According to Omar Marwan, the head of the commission, the report is based on accounts of 17,058 officials and eyewitnesses along with 800 video clips and pictures obtained from people who were at the protests.

Mr. Mubarak was forced to step down on Feb. 11 by massive demonstrations against his three decades in power. One of the protesters’ chief complaints was the corruption pervasive in the government, its bureaucracy and virtually all levels of society.

Mr. Mubarak and his sons were placed in custody April 13 for 15 days while they are investigated over allegations of corruption and their role in the shooting of protesters.

Mr. Mubarak has remained in a hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh until he can be transferred to a military hospital. He was hospitalized with unspecified heart problems on Tuesday, the same day his questioning began.

Along with the president’s sons, most of Mr. Mubarak’s associates are in Tora Prison, south of the capital, over allegations related to corruption and violence against protesters.

On Tuesday, the health and labor ministers were questioned over corruption, and the day before, prosecutors spoke to former Vice President Omar Suleiman about Mr. Mubarak’s wealth and activities during the protests.

Among the mission’s conclusions was confirmation that policemen commandeered a U.S. Embassy vehicle and used it to run over protesters on Feb. 2, the same day horses and camels charged demonstrators in Tahrir Square.

The report did not conclusively identify the causes of the yet-unexplained withdrawal of the police from the streets in Cairo and elsewhere in the country following deadly clashes between security forces and protesters Jan. 28.

It, however, offered various explanations for the escape of thousands of inmates from 11 of the country’s 41 prisons. These included hard-core criminals who fueled a surge in crime that endures to this day.

The commission found evidence to suggest that, in some cases, security officials orchestrated the prison breaks to destabilize the country in the face of the growing mass protests. In other cases, armed groups stormed the prisons by demolishing the fences and walls with bulldozers.

According to some video clips obtained by the commission, men in police uniform were filmed urging prisoners to flee. Other video clips showed prisoners carrying their belongings while leaving their prisons, suggesting that they had been given advance notice they could leave.

In one prison, Wadi el-Natroun, prisoners told the commission that the prison guards cut water and electricity supplies days before, suggesting that the administration forced the prisoners to stage riots and escape.

Others testified that the guards fired in the air and used tear gas to terrorize prisoners and force them to flee.

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