Hundreds march on Parliament to demand release of Abbasiya detainees

Ahram Online, Monday 7 May 2012

Marchers converge on Parliament to demand release of over 300 protesters detained by army on Friday following violent dispersal of sit-in protest against military rule in Abbasiya

Protesters march
in solidarity with detained Abbasiya activists on Sunday, 6 May 2012. (Photo: Mai Shaheen)

In response to calls by several political parties and movements, hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside Egypt's High Court in downtown Cairo on Sunday to protest the detention two days earlier of over 300 protesters by the military. The rash of detentions followed a series of violent clashes between protesters and military personnel, who broke up a week-long sit-in protest against military rule on Friday outside defence ministry headquarters in Cairo's Abbasiya district.

At 4pm, dozens of protesters began mounting the stairs leading up to one of the court's closed gates, angrily chanting against military rule and the practice of referring civilians to military trials. Some demonstrators spray painted yet another layer of graffiti on the court's walls depicting the faces of the latest batch of detained protesters.

The demonstration then merged with a hundreds-strong protest march heading in the direction of Egypt's parliament building. "The military police are even dirtier than Central Security," protesters chanted. "The people demand the field marshal's execution," they shouted in reference to Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, head of Egypt's ruling military council.

As the protest reached Qasr Al-Eini Street near the Cabinet building, dozens of protesters stood in a side alley where an army/police squad was stationed, repeating offensive chants and slogans. They were soon convinced to leave the area by other protesters, however, who formed a human chain at the street's entrance.

Protesters stood in front of the street adjacent to the Cabinet building, meanwhile chanting: "Those who sold us out while we were in Tahrir Square have sold us out again in parliament."

Numbers began dwindling as the march proceeded to the other end of the street on which the parliament building is located.

"Parliament must choose whose side they're on," shouted one protester who had climbed a streetlamp to address his fellow demonstrators. "It's either the revolutionaries or the military."

On Saturday, military police violently dispersed a protest in front of C28 – the headquarters of Egypt's military prosecution – held by activists to show solidarity with their arrested compatriots. At least three activists were arrested and several more injured by heavy-handed policing tactics.

More than 300 people were arrested one day earlier, during Friday’s mass demonstration against Egypt’s ruling military council held outside the defence ministry in Cairo’s Abbasiya district. While 15 female detainees have since been released, hundreds remain in military detention and face charges ranging from infringing on state institutions and violence against military personnel to halting traffic, illegal assembly and trespassing in restricted military areas.

Movements and parties calling for the Sunday march include the Popular Committees for the Defence of the Revolution, the Justice and Freedom youth movement, the National Front for Justice and Democracy, the Revolutionary Youth Coalition, the Our Rights Movement, the Lotus Revolution Coalition, the Revolutionary Socialists, the Revolutionary Youth Union, the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party’s youth wing and the Egyptian Current Party.

An estimated 12,000 people have been subject to military prosecution and held in military prisons since the SCAF assumed executive power in February 2011 following Mubarak’s ouster.   

Parliament had earlier discussed the possible amendment of Egypt’s military trials law and the cancellation of Article 6 of that law, which grants the president the authority to refer civilians to military tribunals. While parliament approved a draft amendment of the article on Sunday, the SCAF has yet to approve it.

Short link: