Constitution Committee (Photo: Al-Ahram)
Egypt's 50-member constitution committee has approved an article allowing civilians to be tried by military courts.
At Wednesday's session, 30 members voted in favour of the article, seven against, with two abstentions. The remaining 11 were absent.
The article was approved after it was amended and presented by the panel's military representative.
The text of the article refers to direct attacks on military premises, camps, properties and factories; attacks on military zones and border areas, and attacks on military vehicles or personnel while they are carrying out their duties. Crimes related to military documents, secrets or funds are also included in the article.
The Sinai representative on the panel, Massad Abu Fagr, withdrew from the session. He described the article as "twisted" in comments on Twitter.
Panel spokesperson Mohamed Salmawy said: "The amended article is different from the old article in the 2011 constitution, which was vague. This article specifies clearly the cases when civilians can be refered to military courts."
Rebel (Tamarod) co-founder and panel member Mohamed Abdel-Aziz used Facebook to explain why he backed the article:
"After long talks, we balanced the revolution's demand for an end to military trials of civilians with the people's will to defeat terrorism targeting the armed forces … In that context the crimes [that can result in military trials have been limited] to avoid vagueness."
He added: "This is the best we can achieve in this critical time in Egypt. One day things will settle down and we will have a real democracy and a two thirds majority in parliament can amend the article."
Mahmoud Badr, the other Rebel co-founder on the panel, abstained from the vote and said he would explain why later.
Several political parties and movements have condemned the article.
April 6 Youth Movement founder Ahmed Maher said via Facebook: "No to a constitution that allows military trials of civilians. Have we forgotten the 12,000 civilians that had military trials [during military rule after the January 2011 uprising], including children who are still in jail?"
April 6 coordinator Amr Salah said the movement would campaign against the constitution if the article is not removed.
Human rights organisations have been calling for a complete ban on trials of civilians by military courts.
The seven panel members who rejected the article are: Hoda Sada, Mohamed Abul-Ghar, Mohamed Abla, Amr Salah, Siyad Hegab, Ahmed Eid and Mohamed Ghoneim.