Egypt: new call for end to military trials after detention of blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah

Army investigation into Maspero violence ‘unacceptable’

The authorities must stop trying civilians before unfair military courts, Amnesty International said today, after a prominent Egyptian blogger and activist was detained.

Alaa Abdel Fattah appeared before military prosecutors yesterday, but refused to answer questions because of his opposition to civilians being tried before military courts.

The prosecution ordered his detention for 15 days pending further investigation. Activist Bahaa Saber, who was interrogated at the same time, also refused to be questioned and was released on bail.

Both men criticised the fact that the military is in charge of investigating the killing of at least 27 people on 9 October, when troops and riot police violently dispersed protests around the state television building, known as Maspero. The demonstrations were sparked by attacks on Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority.

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Philip Luther said:

“The Egyptian military was part of the violence which occurred during the Maspero protests and is also leading the investigation into the bloodshed.

“This is totally unacceptable and raises serious and fundamental questions about the inquiry’s independence and impartiality.

“Egypt’s military authorities must allow an independent investigation into these killings if they are serious about bringing those responsible to justice.”

Alaa Abdel Fattah and Bahaa Saber were charged with inciting violence against the armed forces and assaulting military personnel during the 9 October protests. Alaa Abdel Fattah faces additional charges of stealing weaponry. At least 28 other civilians are believed to have been detained and charged in connection with the demonstrations. More are reportedly wanted for questioning by military prosecutors.

Philip Luther added:

“Military courts should never be used to investigate or try civilians. Such courts are fundamentally unfair, as they deprive defendants of basic fair trial guarantees.”

In Egypt, military courts effectively deny defendants the right to appeal, by limiting appeals to legal points without reviewing the facts and evidence of the case.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has yet to hold the security forces to account for the excessive use of force used against the Maspero protesters. Instead, they have continued to insist that the demonstrators were responsible for inciting the violence and have cracked down on those criticising the way they handled the demonstrations.

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