CAIRO: Some 312 defendants including the Muslim Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie were referred Monday to the military prosecution for torching Ismailia’s court complex, in a retroactive application of an October decree on military trials, Youm7 reported.
As part of wide-scale violence after the forcible dispersal of Rabaa al-Adaweya sit-in in August 2013, the complex in the Suez Canal city was burned down in a protest by Brotherhood supporters angry at the hundreds of deaths in Cairo at the hands of the police.
“The crimes happened prior to issuance of the decree, therefore this referral is illegal because it applies the law on military trials retroactively, given that courts follow the Ministry of Justice and are not military installations,” Mohamed Farouq, lawyer at the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information told The Cairo Post Tuesday.
The defendants include general secretary of the Brotherhood’s dissolved Freedom and Justice Party Mohamed Beltagy, also a former Member of Parliament, and Brotherhood preacher Safwat Hegazy. Both of them are jailed pending several cases and have already received a number of sentences.
On Sunday, civilian prosecutions referred 432 people in Beheira in the Delta and Minya in Upper Egypt to military tribunals for partaking in the torching of Beheira governorate building and a police station in Minya, among other vandalizing and assault charges, also in August 2013.
Egyptian activists have vigorously protested military trials for civilians since the January 25 Revolution in 2011. More than 11,000 civilians have been tried in military tribunals since that time, according to Human Rights Watch.
The last time No to Military Trials for Civilians protested such tribunals was in November 2013, after the entry into force of the 2013 Protest Law, which criminalizes any demonstration without approval from security forces, and many members were targeted and arrested.
Some of them are appealing a 15-year prison term for demonstrating.
The jurisdiction of military tribunals has expanded in the three years following the revolution. President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi issued a decree Oct. 27 that allows military forces to join the police in security public institutions and utilities for two years, and accordingly any citizen arrested for attacking such entities may be referred to a military trial. It also stipulates that crimes of terrorism and acts that “threaten the security of the country” may fall under the purview of military courts.
On Nov. 16, five Al-Azhar University students were referred to military prosecution by the Cairo Criminal Court because they are charged with setting a public facility on fire, prompting rights groups to call 2013-2014 “the worst era for Egypt’s students.”
The decrees followed two attacks in North Sinai Oct. 24, killing over 33 security personnel on top of a large death toll in the ranks of the police and military since the July 2013 ouster of President Mohamed Morsi.