8 civilians facing death sentences in military trial left in limbo for another month
Courtesy: No to Military Trials
 

A Cairo military court postponed a hearing of 20 civilians charged with targeting security personnel for the third time in a row on Sunday.

The hearing was delayed until May 29 because authorities were unable to transfer prisoners to the courthouse, advocacy group No to Military Trials announced.

The hearing will determine the fate of 20 civilians charged by military authorities with belonging to an “advanced operations” cell, allegedly trained to target police and military personnel.

They face charges of possessing firearms and explosives, planning to assassinate military officers, possessing classified military information without authorization and belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood group.

Eight of the men face the death penalty after a trial described as “grossly unfair” by Amnesty International. According to reports by Amnesty International and No to Military Trials, all of the detainees were subjected to forced disappearance and torture, and were forced to make false confessions. The youngest defendant facing execution is 19-year-old student Abdel Baseer Abdel Raouf. 

Six of defendants were tried in absentia, including two facing the death penalty. The others were detained between May 28 and June 15.  Several of the detainees appeared in a video released July 10 by the Ministry of Defense, confessing to their alleged roles in the cell.

On February 7, the court recommended eight of the defendants be sentenced to death, and their files were forwarded to the Mufti, who issues non-binding opinions on whether or not executions should be carried out. 

On May 2015, six civilians were hanged after being sentenced in an October 2014 military trial. The trial, known as the Arab Sharkas case was denounced as flawed by human rights groups, and the executions were carried out while lawyers were still in the process of challenging the verdict and demanding a retrial.

According to a recent report from Human Rights Watch, Egypt has tried at least 7,420 civilians in military courts since the adoption of an October 2014 law that greatly expanded the reach of the military justice system by placing all public property under its jurisdiction. The list of those swept up by the law includes at least 86 children, as well as activists, students and professors. 

Most were sentenced in mass trials with up to 327 defendants, and relatives say many detainees were tortured into confessions, the rights group notes.  

“Apparently unsatisfied with tens of thousands already detained and speedy mass trials that discarded due process in the name of national security, [Abdel Fattah] al-Sisi essentially gave free rein to military prosecutors,” said Nadim Houry, Human Rights Watch deputy Middle East and North Africa director in a press statement. “He has handed back to the military judiciary the powerful role it enjoyed in the months after Egypt’s uprising, when the nation was governed by a council of generals.”

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