Hundreds at the presidential palace demand release of political prisoners

Ahram Online, Monday 2 Jul 2012

Prominent activists and hundreds of protesters on Sunday demand Egypt's newly-inaugurated president release all those who faced military trials including officers who supported the revolution in Tahrir

Woman stands outside the presidential palace demanding the the release of political prisoners arrested by the military over the last 18 months (Photo: Reuters)

Hundreds of protesters demonstrate in front of the presidential palace in the district of Heliopolis in Cairo to demand Egypt's inaugurated president, Mohamed Morsi, give amnesty to thousands of protesters detained in military and civilian prisons.

Demonstrators' demands include the immediate release of the "8 April" army officers who joined Tahrir Square protesters in the wake of last year's revolution in defiance of orders; trying civilians in civilian courts rather than military courts, as is the case now and the immediate release of Egyptian lawyer Ahmed El-Gizawi, who was detained by Saudi authorities earlier this year for what his family says is retaliation for his lawsuit against the Gulf kingdom.

On Sunday, President Mohamed Morsi ordered the formation of an urgent committee to discuss the status of the detainees who have been held in civilian or military prisons during the numerous clashes that erupted after the 25 January uprising.

The committee will include the military prosecutor, the minister of interior and the prosecutor general and will be assigned to assess the cases of thousands of detained protesters and release.

A number of representatives from the protest are expected to submit their demands to the palace. The delegation will include: the Front for Peaceful Change; April 6 Youth Movement (Democratic Front); former presidential hopeful, ElBaradei's support campaign; the Coalition of Revolutionary Artists; the Muslim Brotherhood and the Third Current.

The delegation includes prominent revolutionary activists and other figures, including Ahmed Harara, a dentist who has become well known after losing both eyes in two separate protests; outspoken political activist and daughter of a famous poet, Nawara Negm; members of El-Gizawi's family and Laila Marzouk, the mother of Khaled Said, whose death at the hands of undercover police in 2010 was one of the last straws that sparked Egypt's revolution.

According to human rights groups, over 16,000 Egyptians have faced military prosecution since January 2011. These include the 8 April officers, 13 of whom were initially sentenced to ten years in prison, but whose sentences were later commuted to three years. The rest, meanwhile, still await trial.

In an address delivered in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday, Morsi promised to meet the families of activists currently in military detention and hear their respective cases, raising hopes of a mass amnesty.

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