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Wife of detained army officer pleads for his release

Detention of Ahmed Shoman and fellow officers is not getting attention it deserves, says wife, who implores Egypt's military rulers to release her husband on 'compassionate grounds'

Hatem Maher, Wednesday 29 Feb 2012
Ahmed Shoman
Ahmed Shoman joined Tahrir protests on two occasions, during and after the revolution (Photo: Ahram)
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Tahrir Square's pro-democracy protesters heaped high praise on army captain Ahmed Shoman for his regular presence in the iconic protest ground during the build-up to the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak.

Refusing to abandon his military uniform, Shoman publicly endorsed the popular uprising, which continued after which the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) took charge of the country on a temporary basis.His stance aggravated Egypt's military rulers.

Shoman was arrested in the wake of Mubarak’s departure but, under pressure from demonstrators and activists, the SCAF pardoned him few days later. The ruling military junta issued an implicit warning in an official statement that it would no longer tolerate such acts.

Shoman turned a blind eye to the military caution, opting to join protesters in Tahrir again on 22 November, during the clashes between protesters and Egypt's security forces on Mohamed Mahmoud Street, which saw more than 40 people killed.

There was no way out this time.

“I hope [the SCAF head] Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi will pardon him. Shoman belongs to the armed forces, he never dishonoured the army,” his wife Mona Salah said in a phone interview with Ahram Online, 94 days after he was re-arrested.

“On the contrary, he strengthened the image of the army. He said from the very beginning he was sure the military council was well equipped to run the country. He also said that the perpetrators of the Maspero, Mohamed Mahmoud Street and Cabinet clashes sought to drive a wedge between the army and people.

“He was just unhappy that many of the revolution demands were not fulfilled,” she added in a dejected tone.

“Exceptional circumstances”

Shoman is one of dozens of army personnel who have been detained for joining protesters in Tahrir Square during and after the revolution.

Twenty-two officers were captured on 8 April during one of the square’s trademark million-man demonstrations. Some have already been given jail sentences while others are still being tried in military courts.

Tamer Badr and Amr Metwaly are two well-known officers who are facing trials for similar reasons.

Salah acknowledged her husband had violated military rules but believes he should have been treated differently, given the country’s “exceptional circumstances” following the revolution.

"Being an officer does not mean that he does not have the right to defend the revolution. What we are going through is unique, it’s a revolution and emotions are running high," she said.

"They pardoned him before because of the revolution’s exceptional circumstances. The story is no different today: the field marshal himself said the revolution is still ongoing. Therefore, Shoman does not deserve to be punished.

"If the military legislators knew about the revolution beforehand, they would have amended the rules governing such matters.

"The police officers who killed protesters during the revolution were freed, and Shoman who took the side of the revolution is being tried."

Salah admitted some people had criticised Shoman on social networking websites for putting on the military uniform during the protests.

"He resigned for that reason but they turned down his resignation. He told them either to permit him to voice his opinion or let him go," she commented.

Compassionate grounds

The detention of Shoman and fellow officers originally grabbed headlines but interest in the controversial matter has noticeably waned during the past few weeks. Salah who feels her husband's case is not getting the attention it deserves.

"Where are [pro-revolution TV presenters] Mahmoud Saad and Yosri Fouda? No one talks about that matter anymore. It seems there is a media blackout," she said.

Shoman’s trial will resume on 12 March amid expectations that a final verdict may be delivered. It remains to be seen whether he will be pardoned again, given the army’s strict rules and the sensitivity of the issue.

Salah called on the SCAF to release Shoman on compassionate grounds if not for his "honourable acts."

"He has only seen his children twice since he was arrested. He has been put in solitary confinement for more than three months," she said.

"I think this is more than enough punishment. If not for him, then for his wife and children; Shoman doesn’t deserve all that."

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