Egypt's 'No to Military Trials' campaign is calling for a Tuesday demonstration at 6pm in front of Supreme Court headquarters to protest the ongoing military trial of journalist Mohamed Sabri and 26 residents of Cairo's Qoursaya Island.
On 18 November, Egyptian army personnel stormed the island – located in Cairo's Giza governorate – in an attempt to clear it of local residents, claiming the land was military property. During the raid, 26 residents were arrested and subsequently referred to military trial.
A military tribunal is expected to deliver its verdict in the case against the 26 defendants – all of whom are civilians – on 14 January.
Despite a 2007 court verdict that recognised island residents as the land's rightful owners, the military nevertheless still sees the area as army property.
Journalist Mohamed Sabry, a member of the anti-military trials campaign, also currently faces a military trial in which he stands accused of trespassing on land belonging to the military.
Sabry was arrested by the army on 4 January in the city of Rafah in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, where he had been investigating the impact of a new law banning private land ownership in certain areas of the peninsula.
The 'No to Military Trials' campaign was initially launched after Egypt's Supreme Military Council assumed power following the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in early 2011. Since then, more than 12,000 Egyptian civilians have been hauled before military courts to face various charges.
The campaign has been a vocal critic of Egypt's new constitution – approved via popular referendum late last month – for allowing the military to continue the practice of trying civilians in military courts.
In a recent statement, the campaign asserted that Article 198 of the new national charter did nothing to limit the military's jurisdiction as outlined by Egypt's Code of Military Justice. The code allows civilians to be tried before military tribunals if either of the parties involved in a case is a military officer or if the offense in question takes place in an area in which the military has been deployed.
Article 198 of Egypt's new constitution stipulates that "civilians shall not stand trial before military courts except for crimes that harm the Armed Forces." The law, it adds, "shall define such crimes and determine the other competencies of the Military Judiciary."