Egypt military trial of civilians in May 'grossly unfair' - Amnesty International

Tuesday 05-07-2016 03:56 PM

Some of the defendants sentenced on Sunday by an Egyptian military court. Photo on No Military Trials for Civilians official page

CAIRO, Jul 5 (Aswat Masriya) – Amnesty International described on Monday the military trial of eight civilians in May as "grossly unfair" and called on Egyptian authorities to retry the convicts before a civilian court.

On May 29, an Egyptian military court ordered the execution of eight alleged Muslim Brotherhood supporters, and sentenced twelve to life in prison and six others to 15 years. Only two were acquitted in the case.

According to Amnesty, 19 of the men were present in court, and nine others were tried in absentia.

The verdict is subject to appeal before a Supreme Military Court for those who were present in court within 60 days. The  supreme court may either reject the appeal or uphold it and refer the case to another military court.

The defendants were accused of establishing a group against the law with the aim of preventing state institutions from carrying out their work, participating in the assassination of security personnel, receiving orders from the Muslim Brotherhood group to spread chaos and receiving military exercises abroad.

Based on their lawyers' and their families' statements, Amnesty reported that the men had wounds that included "burns and bruises on their bodies as well as injuries to their hands" indicating signs of torture.

The lawyers told Amnesty that the court had ignored their torture complaints and their requests for investigation by forensic officials.

The men were arrested between May 28 and June 7, 2015, and were held incommunicado, "some for more than six weeks" in conditions amounting to enforced disappearance, Amnesty said in its statement published on Monday.

Enforced disappearance is considered a crime under international law.  

The UN Declaration on Enforced Disappearance specifies that enforced disappearance constitutes a violation of several basic rights including the right to liberty and security of the person and the right not to be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. It is also considered a grave threat to the right to life.

Families of the defendants told Amnesty they had searched for them in police stations, prisons and prosecutors’ offices during the time of their disappearance, but authorities denied that the men were in custody.

Most families later discovered the men were in military custody when they saw a televised video by the Defence Ministry announcing the arrests of the "most dangerous terrorist cell" in Egypt. The video footage features the detainees "confessing" to belonging to banned groups and attacking military institutions.

Authorities have led a crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters since the military ouster of former president Mohamed Mursi in July 2013, following mass protests against his rule. Mursi himself is in jail, serving a string of sentences in more than one court case. 

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