Thursday, June 30, 2016

Solidarity! Demand end of military trial of 26 workers from Alexandria Shipyard Co.

Mada Masr
Solidarity conference demands end to military trial of 26 Alexandria Shipyard workers

Monday, June 27, 2016

Jano Charbel

A conference in solidarity with 26 workers from the Alexandria Shipyard Company who are standing military trial on charges of inciting strikes was held in Cairo on Monday.

A host of solidarity statements was also issued demanding that all charges be dropped against the workers, or that the case be referred to a civilian court.

The “Against Military Trials of Workers” conference was held at the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) headquarters. It was attended by several political activists, along with dozens of representatives of at least 12 parties, labor groups and rights organizations.

Speaking at the conference, lawyer Osama al-Mahdy from the No Military Trials group called for the immediate release of the workers. Mahdy pointed out that since 2011, at least 18,000 civilians have stood trial before military tribunals, when they should have been referred to the civilian judicial system instead.

“The referral of all issues in the country to the Armed Forces’ command will not help to build a modern civil state,” Khaled Dawoud, spokesperson for the Dostour Party, declared at the conference.

The 26 workers took part in a peaceful sit-in along with most of their 2,500 coworkers on May 22 and 23 to demand the national minimum wage of LE1,200 per month, overdue profit shares, their annual Ramadan bonuses and health insurance, along with the re-operation of stalled production lines.

Originally established as a civilian facility several decades ago, the Alexandria Shipyard Company was taken over by the Ministry of Defense in 2007.

The trial began on June 18, and another hearing was held at the Alexandria Military Court on Monday. The next hearing is scheduled for Saturday, July 2, defense lawyer Mohamed Awad of ECESR told Mada Masr.

The workers are accused of striking and inciting strikes, although they insist that they did not partake in any form of work stoppage, said Awad. Rather, work ground to a halt because Alexandria Shipyard administrators imposed a lockout on their civilian workforce starting on May 24, the defendants claim.

Due to the lockout, the Alexandria Shipyard Company is currently operating at only around 10 percent of capacity, the lawyer said.

Awad added that “some conscripts have recently been brought in to undertake the civilian workers’ jobs.”

Of the 26 workers on trial, 15 have handed themselves in and have been attending the military court’s sessions in Alexandria, one of whom has been released on bail, according to Awad. The remaining 11 workers have not yet handed themselves in.

Awad told Mada Masr that the shipyard workers are hesitant to speak openly or to accept interviews with the media as they fear for their livelihoods in light of the ongoing lockout and the military trial of their colleagues.

Previous solidarity statements were issued by the Alexandria-based member of Parliament Haitham al-Hariry, who argued, “Civilians should not stand trial before military courts, even if they are working under military administration.”

He claimed that the trial “aims to intimidate and threaten workers," concluding, “Egypt is a state, not a military barracks.”

Monday's solidarity conference was attended by representatives of the Strong Egypt Party, the Dostour Party, the Revolutionary Socialists, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the Bread and Freedom Party, the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, the Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, the Egyptian Center for Educational Rights, the Toward a Just Labor Law campaign, the No Military Trials campaign and the ECESR.

*Photos courtesy of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, and, respectively

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