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Rights group condemns referral of activist to military court

Ali Mohamed Ibrahim El-Halaby to face a military court after soldiers detained him for allegedly spraying graffiti that raises awareness of former NDP members running in next month's elections

Ahram Online , Monday 24 Oct 2011
Ali El Halbi
Ali El Halbi "Photo:Facebook"
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The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) has released a statement condemning the referral of an April 6 Youth Movement activist for military trial for the act of spraying graffiti.

The statement, released Monday, added that the country's military prosecution will tomorrow resume the questioning of activist Ali Mohamed Ibrahim El-Halaby. Another April 6 member, Ahmed Mohamed Sameh, has also been called for questioning over the same charge.

El-Halaby, who was arrested on 19 October, is accused of vandalising public property, entering a military zone and spraying a graffiti motif warning Egyptians against the remnants of the dismantled National Democratic Party.

According to the statement, El-Halaby was detained by a group of army soldiers early last Wednesday while trying to get into Sameh’s car after spraying graffiti on the walls of the Wafaa and Amal NGO in Nasr City.

Following his arrest, El-Halaby, was transferred to the military prosecution which decided to detain him for seven days pending investigation. Sameh will, it now seems, be questioned for the same alleged crimes.

In the statement, the ANHRI condemned the use of military trials for civilians, which they said continue to be used despite promises by the ruling military council that it will desist from trying civilians in front of military courts. Military trials, the statement, said violate the Egyptian Constitution and all values of a just and fair trial.

The ANHRI added that graffiti is a form of "street art” that has spread since the eruption of the January 25 revolution and is used by activists in Egypt and Tunisia to express themselves and criticise political forces, as well as raise public awareness of the country's political climate.

“It is sad that this freedom of expression margin is growing smaller every day, starting from clamping down on the media, which led Egyptian TV journalist Yousri Fouda to end his program, to putting members of the 6th of April Movement on trial for drawing on walls,” the statement said.

A group of lawyers working for ANHRI will defend both El-Halaby and Sameh and will be present at their questioning.

“However, this does not mean that we accept military trials but we will do this so that their right for defence is not lost," the lawyers said. “But we will not accept any sentence that is issued against them from the military court... and if the military council thinks that drawing graffiti is a crime then they should let the two activists stand trial in front of a normal judge.”

The trying of civilians before a military court has been a constant blight on the civil rights of Egyptians since the the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces assumed power after Hosni Mubarak's ouster on 11 February. Some 12,000 civilians have been sent for trial in military courts since last January.

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