Military court in Suez jails eight protesters

The Suez military court found eight demonstrators guilty on Monday 9 July of charges related to violent incidents that broke out on 4 May around the Suez Security Directorate and the governorate’s headquarters. The incidents coincided with the Abbasseya clashes in Cairo.

Army forces who were securing the Suez governorate headquarters claimed that they had detained the defendants in the case for hurling stones at army personnel. Seven of the defendants were sentenced to six months of prison with labor for assaulting public servants on duty, resisting authority and attacking public buildings.

An eight defendant was sentenced to three years of imprisonment with labor on additional charges of possession of fireworks, which are classified as explosives.

On Monday families of the defendants, members of the April 6 Youth Movement and others demonstrated against the verdict in front of the military court in Suez. Demonstrators allegedly threw stones at armed forces, wounding four. Nine protesters were detained in the incident.

This is the first sentence to be passed against protesters in a military court since President Mohamed Morsy took office.

Morsy had promised to fight for the release of all detainees in military prisons during a speech he gave before thousands at Tahrir Square on 29 June. Last Tuesday, Morsy issued a decree to form a panel including members of the Interior Ministry, the public prosecutor and military judiciary officials to review the cases of civilians detained by the military.

Activists have also demanded that Morsy issue amnesty to all civilians convicted in military trials since January 2011.

On 6 May, Parliament approved amendments to the Code of Military Justice which stipulate that the military refer all cases against civilians to the public prosecutor.

The amendments also removed Article 6 of the code, which previously allowed the president to refer civilians to military trials, an article that had often been used by former President Hosni Mubarak to send Islamist opposition members to military courts. According to the amendments made on 6 May, civilians who have already been sentenced in military trials based on Article 6 now have the right to appeal their verdicts.

Human rights activists have criticized the Islamist majority in Parliament for changing the law in order to reverse sentences made against members of the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups under Mubarak. Human Rights Watch criticized the amendments as having “failed to end the unprecedented expansion of military trials of civilians, despite pleas for reform from the legal and human rights communities.”

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