Saturday, February 28, 2015

Military court sentences 21 students to 15 years imprisonment

Mada Masr

Military court sentences 21 student protesters to 15 years in prison

Wednesday February 11, 2015 

On Wednesday, the North Cairo Military Court sentenced 21 students to 15 years imprisonment each.

Ten of these students were present in court during the sentencing, while another 11 were sentenced in absentia.

These 21 students of Sadat City University had stood trial on charges of protesting without a permit and vandalizing public property on campus.

The office of the Prosecutor General referred these students to a military tribunal in light of the presidential decree which stipulates that "attacks against public institutions, facilities and public properties fall under the jurisdiction of the military judiciary."

The events in question date back to October, prior to Presidential Decree 136/2014 which was issued on October 27, when security forces arrested ten students on the aforementioned charges, and filed these same charges against another 11 students.

Prosecutors in the Nile Delta city of Tanta, who had initially filed criminal charges against these 21 students, moved to refer them to a military tribunal following the issuing of Presidential Decree 136/2014.

One of the lawyers for these students, Mohamed Eissa, told Mada Masr that the referral of his clients to a military trial "was fraught with problems from the very beginning, as the arrests took place prior to the issuing of this decree which grants military courts jurisdiction over their case."

Subsequently, the lawyer pointed out that the referral of these students to a military trial violates the principle of non-retroactivity of legislation, especially when such legislation violates a defendant's rights.

According to Eissa, several of the lawyers for these 21 students sought to file a legal appeal citing the military court's lack of jurisdiction in this case, due to the fact that the law was issued after the students were arrested and charged.

However, other defense lawyers and even family members agreed to have these students stand trial before the military court, as they were under the impression that military courts mete out justice more thoroughly than civilian courts.

The differences amongst the defense team led Eissa and other lawyers to take another legal path.

Eissa's camp filed a legal appeal before the State Council Court against Presidential Decree 136/2014, and specifically against the referral of the 21 students to a military court.

The State Council Court has accepted the lawyers' motion, and has set February 24 as the date for the preliminary session through which to examine this legal appeal as well as assessing the constitutionality of this presidential decree.

Eissa concluded: "The law has been amended so as to allow appeals against verdicts issued by first degree military courts. However, upon looking into the appeals of the military judiciary we find that all previous verdicts issued by military courts have subsequently been upheld."

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