Military court postpones verdict against Alexandria workers over strike

Ahram Online , Sunday 18 Sep 2016

Fourteen of the 27 defendants are jailed over accusations of 'inciting strike'

A military court in the coastal city of Alexandria postponed on Sunday to 18 October its verdict against 27 workers of a state-owned ship building company over protests for better work conditions in May.

The defendants face charges of "inciting strike and sit-in and refraining from work."

In May, most of the nearly 2,500 employees at the Alexandria Shipyard Company staged a sit-in at the Port of Alexandria to demand a pay raise, overdue profit-shares, better health insurance and safety measures.

Two days later, security forces imposed a lockout on the shipyard, bringing all production and services to a halt.

Defence lawyer Mohamed Awad, from the Egyptian Centre for Social and Economic Rights, has slammed the charges as "baseless," saying the workers did not engage in any strike action and that the company's operation was halted at the time by a management decision.

Fourteen of the defendants are in detention while the rest are fugitives, a judicial source said. The court said on Sunday that those in custody will remain in jail pending the verdict.

Awad says that the reason the defendants are being tried in military court, as opposed to the regular court system, is that the 66-year-old shipping company was acquired by the defence ministry in 2007.

The company is one of the largest ship-building companies in the Middle East.

Under the Egyptian constitution, civilians can only be tried before military courts in case of assaults on military installations or personnel or buildings belonging to the army.

Critics argue the company is not considered a military installation and that the defendants did not commit any military crime, but rather asked for their basic labour rights

The military trial, which began in June, has sparked outrage within the industry and among rights campaigners. The case provoked a flurry of condemnation from international trade unions in a global solidarity campaign.

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