Civilians will not face military trials, Egypt FM tells Kerry

AFP, Monday 23 Sep 2013

Egypt's top diplomat, Nabil Fahmy, pledges no military tribunals for civilians ahead of UN General Assembly

Egypt's Foreign Minister Fahmy shakes hands as he meets with U.S. Secretary of State Kerry during a bilateral meeting in New York, 22 Sep 2013 (Photo: Reuters)

Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy on Sunday assured his American counterpart John Kerry that civilians arrested during recent protests across Egypt would not face military trials, a US official said.

Several Egyptian human rights organizations have condemned military trials of civilians, saying that about 60 convictions have been passed by army tribunals since 3 July.

But Fahmy "said that all of the people who are under arrest will be put through the normal judicial process, he said specifically not military court," a senior US official said, asking not to be named.

"Civilians would be tried not in military courts," Fahmy reiterated according to the official, and stressed "that the judicial process would move forward in the normal ways the judicial process is meant to."

Fahmy was meeting the US secretary of state in an upscale New York hotel ahead of the annual UN General Assembly which opens at the United Nations on Tuesday.

The Egyptian minister also told Kerry that "there are time limits" on how long those arrested can be interrogated for and that "there are time limits on the entire process," the US official said, adding that he was not specific and the US administration intended to seek further details.

Following the overthrow of president Mohamed Morsi on 3 July, police have rounded up more than 2,000 Islamists, including much of the leadership of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood movement.

A new Egyptian constitution replacing the one suspended on Morsi's ouster will be put to a referendum by November's end, a spokesman for the panel drafting the charter said Sunday.

The new charter would lead to parliamentary and then presidential elections by mid-2014 according to a timetable set by interim  president Adly Mansour after Morsi's overthrow.

In their talks, Kerry stressed "the importance of Egypt pursuing its road map and doing so in a genuine, inclusive, transparent way," the US official said.

The new leadership in Cairo had "to demonstrate early that it's moving definitively toward a civilian-led government through elections," Kerry told Fahmy.

But the official stressed there was no discussion about specific US aid programs to Egypt.

The United States gives Egypt $1.3 billion a year in military aid along with several hundred million dollars in development and economic assistance.

Obama's administration is currently reviewing the status of US assistance to Cairo following Morsi's ouster, but the official said no definitive decision had yet been taken.

Kerry also raised the issue of the state of emergency.

Egyptian authorities earlier this month extended the state of emergency that has been in force since mid-August for another two months. But Fahmy told Kerry it could not be extended again without a referendum, the US official said.

This story was edited by Ahram Online

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