Egypt’s military slow to fulfill promise of retrying detained protesters

Egypt’s military rulers have yet to fulfill promises to order the retrial of two protesters who received military sentences, human rights advocates said on Wednesday.

On 28 March, the Egyptian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) announced via its Facebook page the retrial of Mohamed Adel, a 30-year-old bank employee, and Amr Eissa, a 26-year-old artist, who were both arrested on 9 March in Tahrir Square and sentenced to five years imprisonment on charges of thuggery.

“This was a political decision, not a legal one, and it was meant to reduce the pressure of the campaign against military trials — counting on the people’s forgetfulness,” said Ahmed Ragheb, head of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center.

Following the statements, Adel’s mother, Nariman Ahmed, was told by the military’s judicial body that it had not been informed of the retrial decision. She has complained to the Ministry of Defense twice since that time and has not yet received a response.

Before the statement’s release, Ahmed received an anonymous phone call, informing her of the decision and promising her that her son would be released shortly.

“I have yet to see whether they will follow through with their promise; I did everything that I can, and I will keep pressuring them until they let him go,” Ahmed told Al-Masry Al-Youm.

Eissa and Adel are among hundreds of protesters who remain behind bars. Most were detained on 9 March as the military broke the Tahrir sit-in. Thirty protesters joined them in detention when the military attacked Tahrir Square again on 9 April. Some of those detained have received military sentences in trials that took less than five minutes and to which lawyers and witnesses were not allowed access.

In a statement released on 28 March, SCAF announced that it would retry Adel based on his mother’s appeal. They released another statement that same day announcing the retrial of Amr Eissa and referring to him as “a student and an artist”.

In its statement announcing Eissa’s retrial, SCAF said, “The military announced in the beginning of 25 January its stance towards the youth of the revolution and that it was not and will never be against the free youth, and that all the legal actions taken in the recent phase concerned incidents of thuggery.”

Mostafa, Amr Eissa’s brother is also worried about the lack of due process following SCAF’s statement. He organized an art show last Friday displaying his brother’s work to prove that he’s not a thug. “How can the person who drew these paintings be charged with thuggery?” asked Mostafa.

Ragheb said that, judging by the fast nature of military trials, if the military council seriously intended to retry Eissa and Adel, they would have been home by now. He added that public pressure is needed to achieve the release of all detained protesters.

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