Rights groups demand end to military trials

Ekram Ibrahim , Monday 9 May 2011

Civilians facing military trials are being deprived of their human rights, warned activists

no military trail
Photo: Ekram Ibrahim

In response to the massive sectarian violence in Imbaba on Saturday, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces announced that whoever was involved in the incidents would face military trial. Today many rights activists organised a press conference at the Press Syndicate saying no to military trials.

“Today we are here to stress that we are against prisoners of conscience, both before and after the revolution,” Ehsan Abdel Qodus, activist and journalist, said at the conference.

Many people were detained during and after the revolution. Some were taken from Tahrir Square and others were picked up from the streets. “Currently there are around 7,000 to 10,000 civilians in military prisons,” said Rasha Azab, activist with the No Military Trials group.

One of the major concerns about military prosecutions is the absence of a civil lawyer. “People were accused of weapons offences and other crimes such as violating the curfew, and lawyers were not allowed to attend the trial,” Adel Ramadan, a human rights lawyer with Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) told Ahram Online.

Human rights activists are concerned about the fact that the military is throwing civilians into military prisons, making it impossible for their families to visit them and depriving them from having a lawyer or the possibility of an appeal. “The military’s trials are very fast; in less than 24 hours they could close the file of the civilian,” Ramadan said.

“This is against human rights; we want the civilians to be transferred to civilian courts.”

To a great extent, the Egyptian media has remained silent about military trials and the torture of civilians by the Armed Forces. In several press conferences, the military council denied there was any torture taking place. “The Egyptian media should stop aligning with the military and should report on military trials and torture cases,” said Gamal Eid, a human rights lawyer. “The council is different from the army and we should criticise it.”

During the conference, families of several citizens facing military prosecution told of their experiences. Many of them reported that their family members were picked up on the street and were not thugs. “My brother is 14-years-old; he was picked on March 9 in Tahrir Square on his way to his work,” Fatma Abdel Hadi said through tears.

While after the revolution many political prisoners were released, 79 are still in prison, according to Said Farag, a lawyer for some Islamic groups. The majority of these prisoners are related to Islamic organizations. “My father has been in prison for 30 years now; he is so sick and we want him to spend his last days among us," said the son of Nabil El-Maghraby, who is currently in Tora Prison hospital.

Moreover, human rights groups EIPR, Hisham Mubarak Law Center and others have issued a statement demanding the immediate release of all detainees and a transparent investigation into the allegations. The statement was delivered to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and Prime Miniter Essam Sharaf around a month ago.

“Corrupt people are sent to civil trials while protesters are tortured and kept in military prisons. I pity this revolution,” said human rights lawyer Ragia Omran.

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