A Cairo civil court convened behind closed doors Tuesday to begin proceedings on the case of 28 defendants who have been charged in connection with the bloody events at Maspero. The court will initially decide whether to renew their detention.
The 28 defendants, including prominent blogger and activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah, are charged with murder, the destruction of public property and acts of terrorism.
Judge Tharwat Hamed, head of the court, held the first session behind closed doors, banning news reporters from attending Tuesday. It is expected that Judge Hamed will interrogate each defendant individually until 10pm. The case was referred by order of Egypt’s de-facto leader Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi from the military’s judiciary to the civil circuit.
The case had recently been transferred to State Security courts before it was referred to an unexceptional civil court on Monday. Protesters and rights groups have called on authorities to charge a civil public prosecution with the task of investigating the violence at Maspero, asserting that the Armed Forces in the form of the military police were involved in the deadly clampdown. Therefore, military prosecution could bear some bias in the matter.
The demand for all civilians to be tried under civil law and not military law has been a popular one among activists and various political forces, notably the No to Military Trials campaign.
At least 27 civilians were killed and hundreds injured during the bloody clampdown by military forces on protesters in front of Egypt’s state TV building (Maspero) on 9 October.