Anti-military trials campaign in Egypt catches fire abroad

Nada Hussein Rashwan, Monday 7 Nov 2011

Continued military detention of prominent activist draws global attention to the ruling military council's practice of hauling civilians before its courts, with protests and action being into motion

Logo of the 'No to Military Trials for Civilians' campaign

In response to an online call by Egypt’s “No to Military Trials for Civilians” campaign, a series of international solidarity protests are being organised to demand an end to the practice of trying civilians in military courts in Egypt and the release of all civilians detained by Egypt’s military prosecution since the January uprising.

The appeal for international solidarity was posted on the campaign’s website late last week. It called for an “International Day to Defend the Egyptian Revolution” on 12 November to feature acts of solidarity and global calls for the release of some 12,000 Egyptian civilians who have been hauled before military tribunals since the February ouster of longstanding president Hosni Mubarak.

“The G8, IMF and Gulf States are promising the regime loans of $35 billion. The US gives the Egyptian military $1.3 billion in aid every year. Governments the world over continue their long-term support and alliance with the military rulers of Egypt,” the statement reads. “People’s lives, freedoms and futures must stop being trafficked for strategic assets. We must unite against governments who do not share their people’s interests.”

The statement goes on to urge international supporters to demand that their respective governments “end support for the Egyptian Junta.”

The call was answered over the weekend by a series of solidarity rallies and declarations of support from foreign activists groups. The “Occupy London” movement, for one, announced its support, holding a solidarity rally in St. Paul’s Cathedral in the British capital. Omar Hamilton, a member of the No to Military Trials campaign, told Ahram Online that demonstrations of support were also being planned in Germany, Sweden and the UK, with plans for similar demonstrations taking shape in New York and Oakland slated for 12 November.

The detention of prominent Egyptian activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah by military authorities on 30 October has also served to focus international attention on the practice of trying civilians in military courts – a practice that has continued unabated under Egypt’s post-revolution military rulers.

Abd El-Fattah was summoned for questioning by military prosecutors investigating the violent 9 October clashes between military police and protesters in Cairo’s Maspero district. The prominent activist refused to answer questions posed by military prosecutors, however, to register his rejection of the practice of prosecuting civilians in military courts and to protest the fact that the military itself was investigating the Maspero clashes – despite the direct involvement of the military police in the incident.

Military prosecutors responded by ruling that Abd El-Fattah be detained for 15 days pending further investigation of the charges arrayed against him, which include incitement to violence on the night of the clashes, stealing weapons from the army and assaulting military personnel.

The activist’s mother, Cairo University professor Laila Soueif – herself a political activist – informed on Sunday Egypt's prosecutor-general that she is going on a hunger strike until her son is released "from his unjust imprisonment." On Saturday, independent daily Al-Shorouk carried an open letter by Soueif in which she questioned the motives of Major-General Adel El-Morsy, head of Egypt’s military judiciary, in detaining her son.

Neither the military court nor the prosecutor-general have yet to respond to Soueif's hunger strike.

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