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EGYPT: Rights groups condemn military trial for popular activist

Protesting Egypt military trials

Political leaders and international human rights groups have condemned Egypt's ruling military council for arresting a popular activist and charging her with insulting the military and inciting violence against the Supreme Council of Armed Forces.  

Asmaa Mahfouz was interrogated by a military prosecutor for several hours Sunday before she was released on bail set at 20,000 Egyptian pounds ($3,365). No trial date has been set. The case prompted presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei to urge the military to stop its crackdown on activists, given that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, who is charged with murdering protesters, is standing trial in a civilian court.

“Military trials for young activists, while Mubarak and Co. stand before civil courts, is a legal farce. Don’t abort the revolution,” the Nobel laureate wrote on his Twitter account.

Another presidential candidate, Ayman Nour, also condemned trying civilians in military courts. Members of the No Military Trials for Civilians group launched a Facebook group “in solidarity with Asmaa Mahfouz” that gathered more than 20,000 supporters in 48 hours.

The state news agency MENA reported that Mahfouz, 26, used her Facebook and Twitter pages to call for armed insurrection against judges and members of SCAF, which has been ruling the country Mubarak was deposed Feb. 11.

“If the judiciary doesn’t give us our rights, nobody should get upset if militant groups appear and conduct series of assassinations, since there is no law, and there’s no judiciary,” MENA quoted Mahfouz as writing on her Facebook page, citing the activist’s opinion about ongoing trials for ex-members of Mubarak’s fallen regime.

After her release, Mahfouz described the charges against her as baseless and said she did not defame SCAF. “How can Mubarak and members of his regime, with all the crimes they’ve committed, be tried in civilian court while I’m tried in a military court for an opinion I wrote on my Facebook page?” Mahfouz told independent television channel ONTV.

Gen. Adel Morsi, head of the military Justice Authority, called on the media to check Mahfouz’s Facebook comments to determine whether they were opinion or an incitement to violence.

Ending military trials for civilians was one of the main demands called for in a three-week-long sit-in last month in Tahrir Square. Rights groups and activists say at least 1,000 civilians have been sentenced by military courts since SCAF took over the country.

In April, Maikel Nabil Sanad, a blogger and activist, was sentenced to three years in jail by a military court for insulting the army in a blog post titled “The people and the army are not one hand.”

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: A protester carrying a sign last month condemning military trials. Credit: AFP

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