Students who were forcibly “disappeared” and tortured into false confessions and shipyard workers who protested against attacks on their pay and conditions at work are among the latest civilians to face trial and conviction by Egypt’s military courts.
According to Egyptian campaign No Military Trials for Civilians, defendants in case 174/2015, heard at West Cairo Military Felonies Court on 29 May were tortured for long periods into making false confessions which were then broadcast on national television. Eight of the men in the case were sentenced to death following a trial which Amnesty International says was “grossly unfair”, while others received life sentences.
Not only did defendants themselves face torture, but in some cases their siblings were also abused in front of them, No Military Trials reports.
Nineteen-year old student Abdel Baseer Abdel Raouf is the youngest defendant, and is now awaiting execution. Omar Mohamed, also a student, was kidnapped by the security forces on 1 June 2015 with his friends Sohaib Saad and Esraa al-Taweel. He was tortured and beaten for 15 days. Omar and Sohaib both received 25 year sentences from the military court.
No credible evidence was presented at the trial – Military investigator Hany Sultan, from Military Intelligence Group 77 when asked by the court for information during the trial repeatedly answered “I do not know” or “I do not remember”. Mohamed Fawzy, a 23 year old electrical engineer who is among those sentenced to death, was convicted of preparing bomb-making equipment, but no such equipment was listed among his seized property.
Military trials have also been used widely against student protesters. At least 160 students were referred to military courts between 2014 and 2015 after a new law came into force designating universities as “military institutions”.
Meanwhile 13 workers at the Alexandria Shipyard are standing trial before a military court following their arrest after troops shut down the yard to stop workers’ protests over deteriorating pay and conditions. For the past four years the shipyard has refused to pay workers profit-sharing bonuses. Workers have also protested over inadequate safety procedures and health care, and demanded restarting production in mothballed sections of the yard.
The first court session for the 13 workers was scheduled to start on 18 June. Their military trial is illegal, say campaigners, as the Alexandria Shipyard is owned by a civilian holding company.
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