Abbasiya detainees begin hunger strike, hundreds more threaten to join

Ahram Online, Tuesday 15 May 2012

Detainees arrested at defence ministry clashes in Abbasiya pledge to join 16 inmates in hunger strike against arbitrary detention and military prosecution ; No to Military Trials campaign issues statement in solidarity

Abbasiya clashes
Security forces throw stones back at protesters in Cairo on 4 May 2012. Thousands marched to denounce violence against demonstrators and the exclusion of candidates from presidential election.(Photo: Reuters)

Around three hundred detainees arrested during clashes near the defence ministry in Abbasiya on 4 May have threatened to join 16 hunger strikers in a mass hunger strike on 20 May unless they are released without facing military trials.  

Two detainees started their hunger strike last week and another 14, who are being held in the same cell, started yesterday.  It is unclear how the decision to begin the hunger strike was coordinated or the locations of all of those threatening to take part, according to Maha Mamoun of the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre, a human rights NGO.

The detainees condemned trials of civilians by military courts and expressed their fears at being forgotten and used as bargaining chips by the ruling military junta and political groups.

A statement released Tuesday by the No to Military Trials pressure group explained that most of the detainees had been "betrayed and arrested for no reason" by the military inside the Nour Mosque in Abbasiya and its vicinity. The statement said that some detainees had been tortured since their arrest.

The statement stressed that the detainees would take all legal steps to voice their complaints to the authorities. The group called for solidarity with the detainees from all citizens and groups in Egypt.

The detainees would not accept being subjected to political trials because most of them do not belong to any political group and simply believe in the goals of Egypt's January 25 Revolution, the statement added. 

No to Military Trials has long been pressing for an end to military trials of civilians and their release from military prisons. 

Since the military took power after the downfall of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, more than 12 thousand civilians have been tried by military courts and detained in military prisons. 

Following a week-long sit-in outside the Ministry of Defence, military forces attacked protesters, killing at least ten and arresting more than 300. Fifteen female protesters were later released.

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