Twenty-six Alexandria Shipyard Company employees are standing military trial for their involvement in industrial action at the company in May to demand the national minimum wage.
The case was postponed to December 20 for the sixth time on Tuesday, defense lawyer Mohamed Awad told Mada Masr.
Fifteen of the workers, who have been detained since May, were pressured into submitting their resignations. Six of them were released by court order on October 18 after resigning, and a release order was given for the nine other detainees on Tuesday after they submitted their resignations, according to Awad.
Of the remaining 11 workers, three tendered their resignations on Tuesday, leaving eight workers who haven’t handed themselves over to the authorities.
The string of resignations commenced nearly two months ago, after a military official affiliated with the Alexandria Shipyard Company informed workers’ families that those facing trial should resign in exchange for having legal charges against them dropped.
A lockout has been imposed on the Alexandria Shipyard Company since May 24, when military police units and Central Security Forces were deployed to seal off the company and intimidate protesting workers, according to the lawyer.
Shipyard officials have allowed many workers back onto company premises since, although 1,000 of the company’s 2,300 workers are still being denied access.
The 1,300 who have been reinstated in their jobs at the shipyard are being paid their wages in full, however the remaining workers are only being paid basic wages, ranging from around LE400 to LE1,000.
While it was originally established as a state-owned enterprise in the 1960s, the Alexandria Shipyard Company has been owned and administered by the Ministry of Defense since 2007.
Accordingly, military prosecutors have charged the civilian workers on trial with violating Article 124 of Egypt’s Penal Code, which stipulates penalties of imprisonment and/or fines for civil servants who deliberately refrain from performing their duties at work.
On Monday, the Arabic Network for Human Rights (ANHRI) issued a statement in solidarity with those standing trial, highlighting that Article 204 of the 2014 Constitution prohibits the prosecution of civilians in military courts, except under mitigating circumstances.
“Civilians shall not stand trial before military courts, except for crimes that constitute a direct assault on military installations, the Armed Forces, its camps or all else under their authority, including military factories,” the article reads.
ANHRI said shipyard employees were merely exercising their right to peaceful protest, posing no threat to the interests of the Armed Forces.
Several solidarity conferences have been organized to protest and raise awareness of the workers’ referral to military trial. Statements of support and petitions have been circulated both within Egypt and abroad, and have been signed by hundreds of individuals, labor organizations and rights groups demanding their release, along with the dropping of all charges leveled against them.
The trial is the most recent of four cases since 1952 which have seen civilian laborers stand military trial. Past sentences issued during the tribunals have ranged from incarceration, to suspended sentences of imprisonment and even death sentences.