Egypt's military takes aim at activists for anti-Christian violence
On Oct. 9, the Army appeared to target Christians who were protesting peacefully. Egypt's military prosecution has summoned two activists, raising fears it is seeking scapegoats for violence that killed some 28 people.
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Abd El Fattah, a well-known blogger and activist, says the military prosecution claims to have videos as evidence of the charges against him, but is not sure what the charges stem from. He arrived on the scene Oct. 9 after the military had attacked protesters, and saw the aftermath: clashes between the protesters and police, and also with mobs incited by state television to attack Christians. He helped carry a wounded protester, who had been shot in the foot. He then went to the Coptic Hospital, where many of the dead and wounded protesters were taken, and spent all night and the rest of the day there, he says.Skip to next paragraph
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Military, not civilian, trials
Since the revolution began, the Army has tried more than 12,000 civilians in military tribunals instead of in the civilian judicial system. The trials can last as little as five minutes and do not protect the basic rights of defendants, say rights groups.
Military leaders promised to limit their use before the events of Oct. 9. But Mona Seif, an activist against military trials, says the tribunals are continuing. Instead of being used for normal criminal offenses, they are now mostly reserved for political activists. (Editor's note: The original version misstated the timing of the military leaders' promise.)
The White House said Monday that President Obama, in a telephone call with Egypt’s de facto leader, Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, urged the military leader to end military trials for civilians and lift the state of emergency. The Egyptian military receives more than $1 billion in annual military aid from the US.
When the military took power in February, it promised to lift emergency law and hold elections within six months, but stuck to neither promise. SCAF generals have said they will not hand over power until presidential elections are held, which will happen by the end of 2012 at the earliest.
Abd El Fattah – Ms. Seif’s brother – and Saber are not the only ones to be questioned in the Oct. 9 violence; 28 people have been arrested and charged with assaulting the Army, and others have been called for questioning, including one Coptic priest.
“From the beginning, the SCAF has been dealing with this matter as if they are not part of it -- it's not their fault and not their crime and they have been questioning other people in it,” says Seif.
Abd El Fattah says he’s not too worried about the charges against him – he and Saber were both arrested and imprisoned in 2006 for their anti-Mubarak activism. But he notes the difference between then and now. “During Mubarak's time, if they committed a crime, they would still try to cover it up, but at least they would not arrest us for the crime they committed,” he says.