CAIRO: Eighteen students reportedly affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood were referred to a military tribunal in the past week, in separate cases over attacking public facilities, thereby leading to the application of a recent law punishing such acts before military trials.
A presidential decree in October 2014 allows military forces to join police in securing public institutions for two years, and has subsequently stipulated that all of the crimes committed against these institutions would be directly referred to military prosecution, then to military trial.
On Saturday, 15 students were referred to an urgent military trial, after the prosecution accused them in November 2014 of attacking a police club and blocking roads in Zaqaziq, Sharqia governorate. Two of the defendants are still at large.
Three students accused of riots acts and burning the main gate of the Azhar University in November will have their next court hearing on January 6 before a military tribunal. The students are among five accused of the same charges, and had their case referred last week to the military judiciary.
In December 2014, hundreds of defendants, mostly affiliated with the Brotherhood, accused of such crimes had their trials passed from civil courts to military ones, in a retroactive application of the decree. Mohamed Farouq, lawyer at the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information said such referrals of crimes that took place prior the issuance of the law is “illegal.”
Some 312 defendants, including the Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, will be also tried before a military tribunal for torching Ismailia’s court complex.
Following the mass referrals to military tribunals, 15 human rights organizations expressed their concerns against the expansion of the military courts jurisdiction, “which would risk the citizens’ right to fair trials, and exacerbate the crisis of the justice system that is currently taking place in Egypt,” according to an October release by the Egyptian Initiative For Personal Rights.
Sisi has also issued a presidential decree in October, which orders military courts to handle police conscripts charged with breaking the law following amendments passed by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi to Law 109 regulating the police system on Sept. 30.
The Supreme Constitutional Court ruled in November that referring police forces to military courts is unconstitutional on grounds that it contradicts with the police authority law in 1971. Accordingly, the Administrative Court issued a ruling Dec. 27, 2014, that obligates the Interior Ministry to hold retrials for the police forces, who were tried before military courts, to be send to civil courts.
Additional reporting by Aya Samir and Hanan Fayed