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Activist group demands Egypt's Morsi end military trials for civilians

Rights campaigners call on President Morsi to end Egypt's longstanding practice of trying civilians in military courts, grant amnesty to all civilians convicted by military tribunals

Ekram Ibrahim, Monday 9 Jul 2012
No to military trials
File photo of Egyptian activists with stickers that read: "No to military trials for civilians" at a rally (Photo: AP)
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A group campaigning for an end to military trials for civilians has called on Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi to issue an amnesty to all civilians convicted by military courts, and send them for trials in civilian courts.

They also demanded that those who were facing military trials be referred to the civil judiciary.

"Military trials are a political weapon used against civilians and should be ended by the new president,” Ahmed Ragheb, a lawyer, said at a press conference conducted by the 'No to Military Trials' group on Sunday.

The campaign, which has been active since the military junta seized power after the toppling of Hosni Mubarak, said acting against the military prosecution of civilians would be a first step towards meeting the goals of the January 25 Revolution.

President Mohamed Morsi has established a committee made up of government officials and four human rights activists to investigate the issue of civilians facing military trials.

Ihsan Abdel-Kodous, a political activist with an Islamic background, criticized the low number of activists on the committee.

Meanwhile, Ragheb said the government officials on the committee are necessary to provide the committee with the required information.  

“We are cautiously observing the new committee," said Rasha Abdulla, a member of the group. "But we believe this is a political issue and if the political will to set free people free is there, then all we need is a decree from the president and we don’t need a committee.”  

The press conference, which took place at the Press Syndicate in downtown Cairo, was well attended, and relatives of civilians detained by the military showed deep anger and chanted against the junta.

The exact number of civilians who have faced military trials since the January 2011 uprising is unknown, but in September 2011 the figure was put at around 12,000.

This figure was then confirmed by General Adel Morsi, member of the military council, who said there were around 11,800 civilians facing military trails. Additional civilians have been arrested since then, including at the Mohamed Mahmoud and Abbasiya clashes.

The Suez military court recently sentenced Mohamed Gharib to three years in jail, and seven other civilians to six months, for protesting in Suez against the Abbasiya crackdown.

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