Monday, April 30, 2012

Egypt: 4 dead, 70 injured in Defense Ministry clashes

Ahram Online
4 dead, 70 injured in defence ministry clashes: Tahrir doctors

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Despite official reports that no one was killed in Saturday clashes outside defence ministry, head of Tahrir Doctors puts death toll at 4 in addition to scores of injuries 

Four people were killed and roughly 70 injured in Saturday's clashes outside the Egyptian Defence Ministry in Cairo's Abassiya district, Mohamed Fatouh, head of the Tahrir Doctors Association, told Al-Ahram's Arabic-language news website.

The report contradicts official health ministry statements that no one had been killed in the clashes.
Fatouh said that most of the deaths had been due to the use of live ammunition, adding that he expected reports of additional casualties within coming hours.

Fatouh went on to say that additional doctors and medical equipment were needed to attend to the injured. A number of those wounded, he noted, had already been taken to the nearby Demerdash Hospital for emergency medical treatment.

The clashes began late Saturday evening when unknown assailants attacked a group of protesters – mostly supporters of disqualified Salafist presidential candidate Hazem Salah Abu-Ismail – who had been staging a sit-in outside the ministry building. 

The sit-in, which began Friday, was held to protest the recent decision by Egypt's Supreme Presidential Elections Commission to disqualify Abu-Ismail from the presidential race following allegations that his late mother had carried US nationality.

Protesters from other revolutionary groups – including Youth for Justice and Freedom, the Coalition of Revolutionary Forces, the Free Front for Peaceful Change and the Second Egyptian Revolution of Rage – all declared their solidarity with the sit-in's primary demand, namely the abdication of Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

*Photo courtesy of Ahmed Ali/AP

Egyptian workers & Lebanese police clash at embassy in Beirut, 16 arrested

NOW Lebanon
Eight ISF members wounded during protest in front of Egyptian mission
April 28, 2012
MTV television station on Saturday reported that eight ISF members were wounded after a number of Egyptian workers, who were protesting in front of Egypt’s mission in Beirut, hurled stones at them.
The TV station said the ISF members suffered head and chest injuries, adding that two Egyptians were also wounded.

According to the report, all the injured people were transported to a hospital and the Internal Security Forces (ISF) arrested ten people involved in attacking the ISF personnel.

However, MTV did not explain why the workers were protesting.

In turn, the National News Agency (NNA) explained that twenty young Egyptian men, among them ten people covering themselves with blankets painted red, congregated on Saturday in front of the Labor Ministry in the Beirut area of Chiyyah and later headed to the Egyptian embassy.

The men were carrying a banner that read: “The sponsorship system kills one worker every day.”

The “sponsorship system” in Lebanon is comprised of various customary practices, administrative regulations, and legal requirements that tie a migrant domestic worker’s residence permit to one specific sponsor in the country. Migrant domestic workers are excluded from Lebanese labor laws, denied freedom of association, and are not guaranteed freedom of movement.

The NNA said the number of protesters later reached 60 and they tried to cross the barbed wire fence which the ISF had placed in the vicinity of the Egyptian  embassy “as a precautionary measure.” 
The report added that some protesters hurled stones at the ISF members and the embassy’s building, prompting security forces to arrest six of them.

Good riddance to the Saudi ambassador

The Guardian

Saudi Arabia recalls Egypt ambassador and closes consulates

Worst diplomatic row with Jeddah since Cairo's peace deal with Israel follows Saudi arrest of Ahmed el-Gezawi

Saudi Arabia has recalled its ambassador from Egypt and threatened to close its embassy and all its consulates in protest at a series of demonstrations against the arrest of an Egyptian man.

The Saudi state news agency said the reason behind the diplomatic move was "unjustified protests" in Egypt and attempts to storm the Saudi embassy and consulates which "threatened the safety of its employees".

The unexpected escalation followed days of protests by hundreds of Egyptians outside the Saudi Embassy in Cairo and consulates in other cities to demand the release of Ahmed el-Gezawi.

Relatives and human rights groups say he was detained for insulting King Abdullah while Saudi authorities said he was arrested for trying to smuggle anti-anxiety drugs.

The arrest has prompted the worst diplomatic row between the two regional powerhouses since Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries broke off diplomatic ties with Egypt after it signed a peace deal with Israel in 1979. Diplomatic relations were restored in 1987.

Saudi Arabia said on Saturday it had recalled its ambassador from Egypt for "consultation" and would close its embassy and consulates in the Arab nation.

Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the army council governing Egypt, was working to "heal the rift".

*Photo courtesy of AP

Brotherhood supporters assault 2 journalists in Alexandria

Committee to Protect Journalists

Two Egyptian journalists attacked in Alexandria

New York, April 26, 2012--Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood assaulted two Egyptian journalists seeking to cover a public conference held on Tuesday in Alexandria by a presidential candidate of the brotherhood's political party, according to news reports.

"All journalists have a right to cover candidates in a democratic election," said Robert Mahoney, CPJ's deputy director. "We strongly condemn this attack on journalists who were just trying to do their job."

About 10 Muslim Brotherhood supporters attacked Nessreen Fouad, a reporter for the Arab News Agency and the Egyptian broadcaster Al-Nahar TV, and Hanna Abu el-Ez, a correspondent for the daily Youm7, as they attempted to enter a public conference held by Mohamed Morsi, the presidential candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, according to news reports.

The Muslim Brotherhood, an independent Islamic movement outlawed under the former regime of Hosni Mubarak, now holds a majority of seats in the Egyptian parliament through its political party.

When Fouad and el-Ez identified themselves at the entrance of the venue, the organizers accused them of being hired thugs and said they were not respectable women, the two told CPJ.

A group of Muslim Brotherhood supporters then began to attack them, hitting Fouad in the stomach and leg and tugging the veil off el-Ez's head and pulling her hair, the journalists told CPJ. Fouad said she sustained bruises on her left leg and stomach.

When the journalists were finally able to enter the venue, the attackers accused them of starting the fight, the journalists told CPJ. When Fouad showed them a digital recording of the attack, she said the assailants backed off and instead tried to calm the journalists down.

Fouad and el-Ez filed a complaint with the police against Morsi and his supporters, they told CPJ. They also said that ever since the attack, members of the Muslim Brotherhood had used social networking sites to claim that they were hired thugs and had framed the organizers of the conference.

Youm7 reported yesterday that a few members of the Muslim Brotherhood had apologized to the journalists at the conference, citing poor organization and congestion as reasons for the attack. The group has not issued a formal statement.

CPJ documented a spike in attacks in February against journalists in Cairo and Suez. In December and November alone, CPJ documented 50 anti-press attacks during clashes between protestors and security forces in Egypt.

Egypt comedian still faces jail for insulting Islam


Court rejects suit accusing Egyptian star of insulting Islam

CAIRO | Thu Apr 26, 2012


(Reuters) - A lawsuit filed against Egyptian comic actor Adel Imam for insulting Islam was rejected by a court on Thursday, but he could still face a jail sentence for a conviction in a similar case, his lawyers said.

Earlier, the state-run newspaper al-Ahram incorrectly reported that the three-month sentence had been overturned on appeal.

Imam's lawyers, Nabil Moawad and Safwat Hussein, told Reuters he remained a free man pending the outcome of an appeal against that conviction, the result of a case filed by the same plaintiff.

The two lawsuits against Imam, whose presence in any movie or theatre cast virtually guarantees a box-office hit, were brought by Asran Mansour, a lawyer with ties to Islamist groups.

Mansour accused the actor of offending Islam and its symbols, including beards and the galabiya, a loose-fitting garment often worn by hardline Islamists.

Imam, 71, has poked fun at officials in his comedies and politicians of all colors during a 40-year career, although he was publicly criticized by many Egyptians for failing to back protests against former President Hosni Mubarak. Some films deal with the rise of Islamic militancy.

The jail sentence against Imam was issued a few weeks after Islamists swept most seats in a parliamentary vote.

Egypt's liberals, leftists and others are worried that Islamists who have emerged as the dominant political force in post-Mubarak Egypt will stifle social and cultural freedoms.


Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in front of the court on Thursday to support Imam. 

"We want freedom of creativity," and "No to prosecuting creative artists," chanted the crowd, which included directors, producers and actors.

Some carried banners saying "Art is not heresy."

"This is an unjust case against Imam and a stifling of freedom of expression," actress Jihan Fadel said. "If Imam's appeal is not accepted, this will pave the way for more obstacles in the path of all creative people in Egypt."

But some passers-by shouted "Jail Imam" and "Imam has always been the enemy of Islam." Arguments broke out between the actor's supporters and opponents.

Among films and plays targeted by the lawyer were the movie "Morgan Ahmed Morgan" and the play "Al-Zaeem" ("The Leader"), the report said.

Court cases against directors, actors, artists and intellectuals accused of failing to respect religious authority are relatively common in Egypt.

Magy Morgan, one of Imam's supporters, said outside the court: "The revolution was fought for freedom of expression and to see a case like this is a disgrace."

(Reporting by Shaimaa Fayed; Editing by Andrew Roche)

Egyptian lawyer in Saudi jail for criticizing king

Ahram Online

Tuesday 24 Apr 2012
Foreign ministry spokesman reveals that the Egyptian ambassador to Saudi Arabia has received orders to press for the release of an Egyptian lawyer sentenced to 20 lashes for 'defaming' the Saudi king

Egypt's foreign ministry, according to spokesman Amr Rushdy, is following up with authorities in Saudi Arabia on the case of the Egyptian lawyer, Ahmed El-Gizawy, who is currently in Saudi custody facing one year in prison and 20 lashes.

"The foreign minister has ordered the Egyptian embassy in Riyadh and the consulate in Jeddah to follow up on the issue and free El-Gizawy," said Rushdy.

According to the foreign ministry spokesman, Egypt's foreign minister is following the issue from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he is attending an emergency meeting on a possible war between Sudan and South Sudan.

Moreover, the Egyptian ambassador to Saudi Arabia has postponed his annual vacation to stay in Saudi Arabia to follow the issue.

Political activists were outraged as there was no official response on the issue until early Tuesday.
The Egyptian lawyer was sentenced in absentia for "defaming the [Saudi] king," King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud.

El-Gizawy was arrested as he entered Saudi territory on 17 April for an omra (Islamic ritualp) pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

The lawyer faced trouble with the law in the oil-rich kingdom after filing a suit in the South Cairo Court against King Abdullah on behalf of Egyptians detained in Saudi Arabia prisons without any court rulings.

El-Gizawy is to receive the 20 lashings on Friday.

Egypt: Free Expression Under Renewed Threat

Egypt Independent

In Egypt, setbacks on expression persist through legal avenues

Sun, 15/04/2012

Jano Charbel

Blows to freedom of expression have been ongoing in the year that lapsed since the 25 January revolution, causing observers to worry about the direction of an uprising that mainly called for the establishment of different liberties.

A common pre-revolutionary practice that still prevails now is that of using the legal system to curtail freedom of expression. The legal culture, the laws and the litigation processes have led to successful attacks on freedom of expression in the past.

Currently, remnants of the old regime, the ruling military council and Islamist lawyers are using the same tools.

On 26 February, Kamal Abbas, director of the Center for Trade Union and Workers’ Services, was sentenced in absentia to six months in prison for insulting Ismail Fahmy, a leading figure in the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation and a former member of Hosni Mubarak’s now-disbanded National Democratic Party.

Abbas received this sentence in light of comments he made on 9 June while attending a conference of the International Labor Organization in Geneva. Abbas reportedly interrupted Fahmy while he was delivering a speech to the conference. The labor activist criticized the trade union federation and its officials for representing the ruling regime, rather than workers.

At Helwan’s Court of Misdemeanors, defense lawyer and former manpower minister Ahmed Hassan al-Borai told Egypt Independent that “this lawsuit is a politicized case, not a legal case.” He said Mubarak regime members in the Egyptian Trade Union Federation were attempting to settle scores with Abbas for his activism in the field of independent trade unionism.

Borai added that such criticism does not constitute libel, slander or defamation, according to Egypt’s Penal Code, and moreover, “this alleged crime took place in Switzerland, not Egypt.” The lawyer said the case against Abbas should be thrown out, “as free speech is not criminalized in Switzerland.”

This is an attack on freedom of expression and on the free labor union movement, Borai concluded.
“In general, freedom of expression has been under attack since the revolution,” he said, “yet each lawsuit is different and has its own specific background.”

Another prevalent practice that predates the revolution is that third parties raise cases against individuals, threatening their freedom of expression on the basis that they harm religious values. This practice was commonly pursued against artists and writers.

Egypt’s top comedian, Adel Imam, was sentenced in February to three months imprisonment on charges of “defaming religion” in his movies.

An Islamist lawyer, Asran Mansour, had filed a lawsuit against Imam claiming that his movies portray a "contempt of religion," a charge criminalized under Article 98(F) of the Penal Code.

Similarly, Naguib Sawiris, the Christian billionaire-turned-liberal political sponsor, came under fire in June when he posted on Twitter an image of a bearded Mickey Mouse with Minnie Mouse donning a full face veil. Sawiris came under fierce criticism for his tweet and was accused of “defaming Islam and its symbols.”

Although Sawiris posted an official apology, Islamist MP Mamdouh Ismail filed a lawsuit against him, claiming he had openly displayed contempt of religion. Earlier this month, the Abul Ela Court of Misdemeanors threw out the charges leveled against Sawiris.

Political bloggers, who have commonly been legally penalized for their online publishing before the revolution, haven’t been spared afterwards.

Maikel Nabil is a case in point. On 10 April 2011, a military court sentenced Nabil to three years in prison on charges of “insulting the military” in his blog post titled “The army and the people were never one hand.” 

The blogger went on hunger strike in his prison cell and demands for his release grew steadily. Two days prior to the anniversary of the 25 January revolution, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces pardoned him.

Emad Mubarak, executive director of the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, said that “freedom of expression has definitely increased since revolution but is still facing numerous obstacles and threats.”

“In the past, people were afraid to speak or express their opinions, while journalists couldn’t discuss anything pertaining to the military institution,” he said. “Now people are talking freely and journalists are openly criticizing the military junta,” he said.

But setbacks are represented by the ruling military council’s several attacks on freedom of expression as manifest in bloggers’ detentions, journalists’ interrogations and the attempt to legalize a ban on protests, Mubarak said.

“This transitional stage is hazy and the future is not yet clear. We’ll wait and see where this transfer of authority goes,” said Mubarak. The election of a president and the conclusion of this interim period “will help us understand the trajectory of the revolution, and then we will be able to assess the future of freedom of expression.”

Mubarak added that the Islamist ascent can also be conducive to limiting freedom of expression.
“Old laws that allow for violations of the right to freedom of expression are still in use, while new laws are being discussed and drafted. Yet many of these drafts are not promising. A number of the draft laws proposed by the Islamist MPs are worrisome and disturbing,” Mubarak said.

“If issued, these conservative laws will threaten not only freedom of expression, but also freedom of assembly and association, along with other liberties,” he added.

*Photograph by Amr Abdalla

Friday, April 27, 2012

Egypt: Military Impunity for Violence Against Women

Human Rights Watch
Egypt: Military Impunity for Violence Against Women
April 7, 2012
(New York) – The March 11 acquittal of the only military officer charged in the “virginity tests” trial is a blow for any hopes of accountability for the abuses women have experienced at the hands of the Egyptian military over the past year, Human Rights Watch said today.

The military has failed to investigate and punish credible claims of other instances of violence by its members against women, including the beating and torture of women demonstrators by military officers on March 9 and December 16, 2011.

The investigation and trial in the case, in which female protesters who had been detained testified that a military doctor subjected them to “virginity testing,” underscore the lack of independence of the military justice system in trying such cases, Human Rights Watch said.

The military prosecutor summoned no witnesses for the prosecution to establish the charges under which he had referred the case to court, nor did he challenge apparently factually inconsistent testimony by defense witnesses. Despite clear statements from senior military leaders that the incident had taken place, the trial did not examine who, and at what rank, ordered the tests.

“The verdict in the ’virginity tests’ trial is just one more example of the military’s failure to punish gross abuses against women and a reminder that the military justice system lacks the fundamental independence to remedy human rights abuses by the military,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

On the afternoon of March 9, 2011, military officers destroyed a tent camp belonging to demonstrators in Tahrir Square's central garden, and arrested at least 190 demonstrators. On March 10, according to five women who gave accounts of their experiences, a military officer went into the prison cell where 17 women were being held and asked if they were married. A prison military doctor, Ahmed Adel, then conducted “virginity tests” on seven of the women who said they were not, using his fingers to examine their hymens.

Three of the women, Samira Ibrahim, Rasha Abdel Rahman, and Salwa al Hosseiny, told Human Rights Watch that a female prison warden and other soldiers were present in the corridor when the doctor conducted the “virginity tests.” Later that day, after trials lasting not more than 30 minutes, a military court sentenced all 17 of the women to suspended one-year sentences for “thuggery.” The military officers released them on March 12.

It took nine months, however, for military prosecutors to refer the case on the allegations of virginity testing to court. The only military officer charged and brought to trial was Adel, who was charged with “public indecency” and “failure to obey orders.” He was acquitted on all charges on March 11, 2012.

Even though both Ibrahim and Abdel Rahman testified in court that Adel had subjected them to virginity tests, the court based its decision on the doctor’s denial and the inconsistent testimonies of two prison wardens. The military prosecutor failed to challenge the inconsistencies or to investigate anyone in the command chain who may or should have known that the tests took place and did not prevent them.

Ibrahim’s lawyer, Ahmad Hossam, told Human Rights Watch that the prosecutor also failed to summon a single witness to prove the charges he set out in his indictment referring the case to court, and that Abdel Rahman and three other witnesses for the prosecution were able to testify only by petitioning the judge. Ibrahim had testified in her capacity as the plaintiff since the case had started as a result of the complaint she had filed.

Although they initially denied that any violations had taken place in March 2011, generals of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) later confirmed on at least two occasions that the virginity tests had taken place on March 10 and that this was a routine practice. In an interview with Shahira Amin, a journalist, on May 27, General Ismail Etman, chief of morale affairs for the military, said that, “We didn't want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren't virgins in the first place.”

On June 13, Mona Saif, founder of the No to Military Trials group, met with SCAF General Hassan al-Ruweiny, who gave her the same explanation. On June 26 Major General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, head of military intelligence, confirmed to Amnesty International that the military had carried out the tests, as the organization published in a statement the next day.

In addition, General Mohamed ‘Assar told Human Rights Watch on June 7 that conducting virginity tests was “normal practice” and that, “When any woman enters an Egyptian prison, it is a rule that she be subjected to a virginity test.”

The flawed investigation and trial of this case reflects the lack of the military prosecutor’s and military court’s independence, Human Rights Watch said. The military justice system in Egypt is a division of the Defense Ministry. The head of military justice, General Adel Morsy, reports to the SCAF and appoints all the military judges by authority vested in him by a SCAF decree.

In December Morsy said that there “was no decision in the first place to conduct virginity tests and no provision for such a procedure in the regulations of military prisons.” Given his status in the military hierarchy and his authority over the military judge in the trial, such a statement effectively prejudged certain aspects of the trial, precluding an examination of whether the military ordered the virginity tests or had a policy of carrying them out, Human Rights Watch said.

“Civilian courts, not military courts, should be in charge of prosecuting the military for their ongoing abuses against civilians,” Whitson said.

The acquittal of the military doctor reflects an ongoing pattern of the military’s failure to investigate and prosecute cases involving military violence against women. The military has not seriously investigated allegations of assault on women demonstrators on March 9, 2011, or incidents in which video footage captured groups of military police beating and kicking women on December 16, including one veiled woman who lay on the ground with her torso exposed while six military police officers beat and kicked her.

On December 19 General Adel Emara commented on the attack on the veiled woman, telling journalists: “Yes this scene actually happened and we are investigating it. We will disclose the investigation results in full. We do not want to conceal anything.” But the military has not taken the testimony of any of the women assaulted in these cases, human rights lawyers told Human Rights Watch, nor made public any of the results of their alleged investigations.

An investigation into the incident by civilian prosecutors also has failed to interrogate any military officers, human rights lawyers told Human Rights Watch.

Despite the fact that military courts have issued harsh sentences, including many death sentences, in cases of rape by civilians, there appears to be a significant discrepancy in sentencing when a military officer is tried for the same crime.

Human Rights Watch has been able to identify only one case in which a civilian allegedly raped by a military officer filed a criminal complaint that went to trial: the case of a 34-year-old British woman who said she was raped in a room at a checkpoint in Sinai on May 15, 2011. The military court sentenced the officer to five years in prison, which it commuted to three years in February.

Proposals to amend the Code of Military Justice should not only prohibit trying civilians before military courts but also allow for trials of military officers before civilian courts in cases of serious human rights violations.

“The military has chosen to cover up the ‘virginity tests’ just as it has failed to investigate or prosecute anyone for serious allegations about the beating of women protesters in December,” Whitson said. “Military impunity will continue as long as the military justice system is the only place victims of military abuse can file complaints.”

The Virginity Tests Trial

Failure to Investigate and Prosecute Adequately

Human rights lawyers representing Samira Ibrahim filed a complaint on June 23 at the office of the military prosecutor. The deputy chief military prosecutor summoned Ibrahim on June 28 to take her testimony. On July 10 the prosecutor summoned Adel, a 27-year-old first lieutenant and the military doctor on duty at the military prison at the time of the tests, who denied that the invasive procedure had taken place.

Ahmed Hossam, Ibrahim’s lawyer, told Human Rights Watch that over the following eight months whenever he asked about the progress of the investigation, military prosecutors told him that the results of the investigation by the military police at the prison “weren’t ready yet.” In contrast, investigations by military prosecutors of civilians can last as little as 30 minutes, and in high-profile cases three weeks, before the prosecutor refers the case to court.

It was not until December 20 that Morsy announced in a news release that the virginity tests case had been referred to trial before military courts. The prosecutor’s referral order is dated December 18. It came after hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets in November calling for an immediate end to military rule, and further protests on December 16, when military police were caught on video beating unarmed protesters, including several women.

Charges and Indictment
Case documents reviewed by Human Rights Watch indicate that the military prosecutor limited his investigation to interrogating Adel and did not investigate the potential responsibility of commanders for ordering procedures or indict any of the commanding officers who oversaw the arrest, detention, and trial of the 174 protesters and the detention of the 17 women in the military prison. He indicted only the prison doctor and added a second charge of “failing to obey orders” to indicate that this was an isolated act that the doctor had initiated independently.

Lawyers from the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) obtained the prosecutor’s interrogation and indictment sheets. These reports indicate that on December 13 the military prosecutor interrogated Adel and charged him with “sexual assault” [hatk‘ard] and on December 18 issued a charge sheet accusing Adel of “violating the victim Samira Ibrahim by exceeding the bounds of a medical examination and subjecting her to a virginity test and revealing her area of chastity.” [manatiq al‘iffa].On the interrogation sheet, the prosecutor stated that Adel had subjected Ibrahim to the test in full view of other people in the military prison.

Yet in the December 18 referral order, the prosecutor had reduced the charges from sexual assault to committing “an act of public indecency” and “failure to obey orders.” Hossam told Human Rights Watch that he and other lawyers had on four occasions asked the judge to amend the charges from “act of public indecency” and “failure to follow orders” to “sexual assault” (hatk‘ard). 

The SCAF had in March 2011 amended article 268 of the Egyptian penal code on sexual assault, increasing the penalty from hard labor to imprisonment of up to seven years and stating that “any person who violates another with the use of force or threat, or attempts to do so, shall be punished with imprisonment.” The judge refused to restore the sexual assault charge.

Witnesses and Evidence
At the trial, two women testified that Adel had subjected them to the tests and two others that SCAF generals had confirmed the incident to them.

At least four witnesses summoned by defense lawyers who said they were in the military prison that day supported the military doctor’s testimony that the tests had not taken place. They included the head of the military prison, Major Ashraf Sayed Mohamed, and the two female prison wardens, Fawziya Sobhi Hassan and Abeer Rashad Abdel Moemen.

However, Abdel Moemen testified that she had not been present during the military doctor’s examination of the women, contradicting her June 9 testimony to the military prosecutor that she had been with the doctor at the time of the examination and was the only one present.

Hassan also had told the prosecutor on December 19 that she had been present during the examinations with Abdel Moemen, but on February 6 testified in court that Hassan had been the only one with the doctor. The prosecutor did not raise the issue of the inconsistent testimony during the trial nor did he cross-examine the witnesses.

Since the Code of Military Justice does not recognize the standing of the civil parties to the case, Ibrahim’s lawyers, Ahmed Hossam and Adel Ramadan, only managed to get access to the case file and permission to intervene in the case after appealing to Morsy on January 3. The lawyers contended they had a right to intervene in the proceedings on the basis of article 272 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which allows victims the right to cross-examine witnesses.

Morsy allowed them to appear as lawyers for the victim to intervene in the case, but did not allow them to file compensation claims. Morsy told Hossam that he had issued orders to allow lawyers for civilian claimants to intervene in all military trials.

Hossam and Ramadan next asked the judge to summon witnesses for the prosecution, since the military prosecutor had not summoned a single witness to establish the charges. The judge approved this request, and the lawyers brought forward four witnesses to testify on February 26.

One of the four was Rasha Abdel Rahman, who confirmed Ibrahim’s testimony. She told Human Rights Watch that when she saw him in court on February 26 she recognized the accused as the one who had subjected her to the virginity test. She told Human Rights Watch:
There was a prison warden called Azza dressed in black. I was the fifth one to be examined. They took me to a bed in the passageway. There were others there: the prison doctor, a soldier called Ibrahim, Azza the prison warden, and a man standing in the room opposite. The doctor examined me with his hand.
Cover-up, Despite the Military Leadership’s Admission
In the first three months after the incident, members of the SCAF had repeatedly denied that the virginity tests took place, including in the above statements by Generals Mohammed ‘Assar and Ismail Etman.

However, in the trial session on February 26, Shahira Amin, the journalist, testified that SCAF members had confirmed to her that the incident had taken place. In addition, Mona Saif, founder of the No To Military Trials group, testified that when their group had raised the incident in a meeting with a SCAF general, he had told them that “virginity tests” were a routine practice. Heba Morayef from Human Rights Watch also testified that a SCAF member had told her that virginity tests were a normal practice and that they were regularly conducted on all women prisoners.

Amin recounted what General Etman, chief of morale affairs for the military, told her in a telephone conversation on May 27 as she was interviewing him for a story for CNN:
The girls who were detained were not like your daughter or mine. These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters in Tahrir Square, and we found in the tents Molotov cocktails and (drugs)…. We didn't want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren't virgins in the first place.
Saif testified that General Hassan al-Ruweiny had told her on June 13 that the tests were a routine procedure on women detainees in military prisons conducted to prevent future claims of sexual assault.

Morayef testified that she was part of a Human Rights Watch delegation who had met with Major General ‘Assar on June 7, who told the delegation:
You have to take into account the differences in culture around the world. There are Asian countries where you are offered the brain of a monkey as a guest. There are differences in cultures… When any woman enters an Egyptian prison, it is a rule that she be subjected to a virginity test… We have issued instructions that this should not take place again.
Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui at Amnesty International also told Human Rights Watch that when their delegation met Major General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, head of military intelligence, on June 26, he confirmed to them that the military had carried out the tests in order to protect the military against possible allegations of rape.

Civilian Administrative Court Orders an End to Virginity Tests
Egyptian human rights lawyers had filed a separate case before an administrative court, asking the court to order an end to virginity tests in military prisons as a violation of human rights.

On December 27 Egypt’s administrative court, the Council of State, ruled in Samira Ibrahim’s favor in the case. Citing Egypt’s Code of Criminal Procedure, Constitutional Declaration, and Egypt’s ratification of treaties including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, presiding judge Abdel Salam al-Naggar ruled that the practice of conducting virginity tests on women in detention was “targeted at humiliating women participating in demonstrations” and that they were “an illegal act and a violation of women’s rights and an assault on their dignity.” Judges in administrative courts can issue findings of law based on prima facie findings of an alleged practice when they rule a case admissible but do not make findings about specific criminal incidents.

The judge cited article 40 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which states that every detainee must be treated with respect for human dignity and prohibits physical or psychological ill-treatment, and article 46, which states that women can only be searched with their consent. The judge also cited that articles 8, 9, and 17 of the Constitutional Declaration guarantee the right of people in detention to be treated with dignity, not to be subjected to any physical or psychological harm, and not to be detained in places other than those specified in the prisons law. He said that any violation of these rights is a crime and that the state is under an obligation to provide a just remedy to those whose rights have been violated.

Later that day, Morsy issued a news release in which he said that the decision of the administrative court was not applicable because there “was no decision in the first place to conduct virginity tests and no provision for such a procedure in the regulations of military prisons.” He said that if these tests were to take place, they would be the act of an individual, who should be punished.

The SCAF has in the past implemented court rulings by Egypt’s administrative courts, such as the Council of State judgment ordering Egypt’s executive authorities to enable Egyptians living outside Egypt to vote in the country’s November parliamentary elections.

Virginity Tests Under International Law
As party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Egypt is obliged to protect women from cruel and inhuman treatment and discrimination, and to ensure their right to privacy. Coercive virginity tests violate all three of those obligations, Human Rights Watch said.

The virginity tests also violate guarantees of freedom from discrimination in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which is reflected in the March 30 Constitutional Declaration that acts as Egypt’s transitional constitution. The CEDAW Committee has previously stated that it views with the “gravest concern the practice of forced gynecological examinations of women … including of women prisoners while in custody.” The committee “emphasized that such coercive practices were degrading, discriminatory and unsafe and constituted a violation by state authorities of the bodily integrity, person and dignity of women.”

Conducting virginity tests without the informed consent of the girl or woman violates her right to bodily integrity, dignity, privacy, and equality before the law, and would amount to a sexual assault. Such assaults cannot be justified, being based on an intrinsically discriminatory presumption that an examination of female virginity can be a legitimate interest of the state. Under international law virginity tests committed in custody constitute cruel and inhuman treatment. These exams are painful, degrading, and frightening. Victims attest that being forced to undress and undergo exams is degrading both as a physical violation and for the threatened consequences, given their status as prisoners.

Impunity for Violence Against Women Demonstrators
In addition to the “virginity tests” case, the Egyptian military has failed to punish other violence against women demonstrators. The military has not investigated or punished the beating and torture of women demonstrators by military officers on March 9 and December 16, despite promises to do so.

Human Rights Watch has interviewed 16 men and women who testified to being tortured by beating, electroshocks, and whipping by military officers on March 9 in the grounds of the Egyptian Museum, adjacent to Tahrir Square. Rasha Azab, a 28-year-old journalist for Al-Fajr Weekly, told Human Rights Watch she was handcuffed to an outside wall in a museum courtyard:
They were kicking me in my stomach, hitting me with wooden sticks and slapping my face. They called me dirty names. At one point, one of them came and tied my hands even more tightly. I stood there for four hours. I saw dozens of men being dragged on the floor and whipped. All of them were the people who had stayed in the square. I heard people screaming from inside the museum, and [the soldiers] said, “You should thank God you are not inside.”
On March 28 SCAF Statement No. 29 on the military’s official Facebook page said the military would “look into the truth of what was said recently” about “the torture of women arrested during the latest sit-in in Tahrir by military officers.”

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights obtained an April 2011 military police report signed by General Hamdi Badeen, head of the military police, titled “on the March 9 arrest of demonstrations from Tahrir square” and marked “very secret.” The document states that:
During the filming of the detainees it was noted that there were bruises and abrasions on some of the men and women and they said that some of those inside the museum … and some members of the armed forces … who were inside the museum attacked them, which is what led to these bruises.
Despite this report, however, there has been no investigation by the military prosecutors into the torture of the women and men. Only the military prosecutor can summon military officers to interrogate them on such charges, and thus far, the military prosecutors have not summoned any of the victims to take their testimonies, which is the first step in any investigation.

On December 16 security forces attacked and beat female and male demonstrators who had been protesting in front of the offices of the Egyptian cabinet. At least six military police officers were caught on camera apparently beating, stomping on, and kicking a veiled woman whose clothes had been torn off, exposing her torso. In other footage, at least four military police were seen beating and kicking another woman, Azza Helal, as she lay motionless on the street with sticks. Helal, who spent over a week in hospital with serious injuries, has filed a criminal complaint with the civilian public prosecution; the other woman, whose picture was splashed across the international media, has not come forward.

General Adel Emara confirmed that this incident had taken place and told journalists: “yes this scene actually happened, and we are investigating it. We will disclose the investigation results in full. We do not want to conceal anything.” But the military has not summoned the victims to testify or formally questioned any military officers in connection with a criminal investigation of this incident.

On December 20, while a women’s march of up to 10,000 people was winding through the streets of downtown Cairo, the SCAF posted a statement on its official Facebook page:
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces expresses its deep regret to the great women of Egypt for the infractions (tagawuzat) that occurred during the events of the Cabinet demonstrations, and affirms its respect and appreciation for the women of Egypt and their right to demonstrate and participate politically in Egypt … taking into account that all necessary legal measures have been taken to hold accountable those responsible for these infractions.
Despite this statement, there has been no “disclosure” by the military of the result of any investigation it may have conducted or whether it has ordered disciplinary measures short of a criminal investigation. The investigation into the violence during the December demonstrations at the offices of the cabinet, led by civilian prosecutors, has not included the military officers involved in the violence. Human rights lawyers Basma Zahran and Ahmad Hossam, who represent some of the women beaten and sexually abused, both confirmed to Human Rights Watch that civilian judicial authorities have not sought to identify which military officers may have been responsible for beating the women, for example by ordering a review of available video footage.

At least two of the women told the civilian investigative judge who was interrogating them in connection with the incident that they had been beaten and sexually abused by military officers. Had there been an intention to investigate, the investigative judge would have had to transfer the complaint to the military prosecution, since only the military prosecution can interrogate military officers as accused. The first step in any investigation would be for military prosecutors to summon victims in order to take their testimonies and this has yet to occur.

Discrepancy in Sentencing Civilians and Military in Cases of Rape
Human Rights Watch is aware of only one case in which a crime of rape committed by a military officer against a civilian was prosecuted and punished. The victim, a 34-year-old woman from the United Kingdom who did not wish to be identified, was in a shared taxi on May 14, 2011, in Sinai when military officers stopped the taxi at a checkpoint before al-Arish, told the woman to get out, and ordered the taxi to drive on. The woman told Human Rights Watch that the military officer had told her to go into the building at the checkpoint, where she would have to stay until morning, and that about 15 or 20 other soldiers were at the checkpoint. She said the officer led her up to a small room on the second floor. In a statement to Human Rights Watch, she wrote:
I became even more scared and stood up to leave, but he stood up and pushed me back. I knew that the other soldiers were just outside, so I screamed, “Help!”, as loudly as I could, but I think this would have only lasted for a second or two at most because he put his hand over my mouth. I struggled to get away but he was really strong. He tried to kiss me so he must have taken his hand off my mouth at some point.

I don’t remember the exact sequence of what happened next. I know that he pushed me onto the floor, because I remember being face down on the floor, twisted with my face against the wall, and him somehow on top of me. I was very scared, and shocked. He pulled my jeans down and I felt something go inside my vagina. His hand was over my face and at one point I managed to move my head so that I could say “I can’t breathe.” I thought that he might kill me at this point. I don’t remember it going in or out of me – I just remember the feeling of it inside me. I was surprised it happened so quickly. He made a noise; I think he had ejaculated.
On May 15 she reported the crime to the tourist police, who referred her to the military prosecution, where she filed a formal complaint. The woman described what happened at the military court building in Nasr City:
After a few hours of waiting I said that I wanted to go, but I was told we weren’t allowed to leave. I started asking for a lawyer because I wanted help … Once I started asking to leave, and asking for a lawyer, the military personnel present  … started asking me if I was making it up, why was I changing my mind, and telling me I did not need a lawyer as I was not accused, I was the victim. I stood up to leave but the gate was blocked by army personnel holding guns. This was terrifying. I was extremely upset and kept asking to leave.
The military prosecutor eventually allowed her to leave that evening, telling her to return the following day. The next day, an officer in civilian clothes who identified himself as “detective Hani” asked her to do a “re-enactment” of the rape on the floor, showing the positions she had been in. The military officer then asked her to return the next day. When she arrived, military officials told her that they wanted her to identify her attacker from a line-up of five men, which she did.

It was only months later that her Egyptian lawyers to whom she had granted power of attorney managed to find out that an Ismailiya military court had convicted the officer of rape and sentenced him to five years in prison. However, Field Marshall Hussein Tantawy, the Defense Minister and head of the SCAF, ordered a retrial of the case, and on February 6, the court reduced the sentence to three years.

This sentence stands in marked contrast to the sentences issued by military tribunals against civilians convicted of rape, where sentences have ranged from 25 years to the death penalty. For example, in March 2011, an Ismailiya military court sentenced a 25-year-old civilian, Ismail Mohamed, to 20 years for attempted rape. On May 16 the Supreme Military Court convicted Mohamed Tarek, Karim El Sawy, Ahmed El Ashry, and Mahmoud Hassan of kidnapping and raping a woman and sentenced them to death.

Military Trials of Human Rights Abuses Lead to Impunity
The independence necessary to investigate and prosecute military abuses generally does not exist when military authorities investigate human rights violations by military personnel and prosecute them in military courts. Both the prosecution and judges should be independent of those they are investigating, including of the chain of command, Human Rights Watch said.

The Egyptian military justice system, created by Law 25 of 1966, includes courts and a prosecution section and is a division of the Defense Ministry. All military judges and prosecutors are serving members of the military, subject to the military hierarchy, selected by the head of the military justice system, and appointed by the defense minister. They have no formal independence and report to Morsy, the head of the military justice system, who reports to the defense minister, currently Tantawy, who as head of the SCAF is exercising presidential powers.

The 2005 United Nations Set of Principles for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights through Action to Combat Impunity state that “the jurisdiction of military tribunals must be restricted solely to specifically military offenses committed by military personnel, to the exclusion of human rights violations, which shall come under the jurisdiction of the ordinary domestic courts.” The Inter-American system of human rights protection has opposed the use of military tribunals to try military personnel in cases of human rights violations.

In its long-term work in Mexico and Chile for example, Human Rights Watch has found that restricting jurisdiction over human rights abuses committed by military personnel to military tribunals will lead to impunity. A 2006 report by the United Nations special rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, held that after asserting jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute cases in which members of the military had raped women in southern Mexico, “rather than carrying out full and impartial investigations, military investigators have reportedly delayed criminal proceedings and tried to disprove the allegations thereby placing the burden of proof on the victim.”

In its report “The Road Ahead: A Human Rights Agenda for Egypt’s New Parliament,” Human Rights Watch identified the Code of Military Justice as one of the priorities for legislative reform to end trials of civilians before military courts and to allow civilian courts to try military officers for serious human rights abuses. It said:
  • The Egyptian parliament should amend the Code of Military Justice to restrict the jurisdiction of military courts to trials of only military personnel charged with offenses of an exclusively military nature; and
  • The Code of Military Justice should be amended to explicitly state that the public prosecutor shall be competent to investigate complaints regarding military abuse and that members of the military can be tried before civilian courts in cases of abuse and ill-treatment

Europe's Struggling Trade Unions

Europe's struggling trade unions
April 6, 2012

Barnaby Phillips  

Here's a sobering thought for Europe's trade unions. Throughout the long and painful story of the Eurozone crisis, from early 2010 to the present, it's difficult to think of a single significant victory for organised labour.

There have been many strikes and protests in Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal. Some have been well attended, others not. Sometimes there has been violence, but most protests have been peaceful.But heavily indebted governments have pushed ahead anyway, with big cuts in public spending and a range of economic reforms.

Are the unions simply helpless before what they would characterise as the powerful forces of neo-liberalism and international finance? Do they lack the stomach for a fight? Or are they simply failing to present viable alternatives for Europe's struggling economies?

Last week I went to a gathering of trade union leaders in Madrid. Representatives from France, Italy and Belgium had come to express solidarity with their Spanish counterparts. Looking at the line up on the stage I couldn't help but notice that all the speakers were not only male, but also appeared to be on the wrong side of 55.

Europeans are looking for inspiration in these troubled times, but this collection of middle aged men did not look like they represented the future. And although the meeting was headlined "Alternatives to Austerity", speaker after speaker railed against government policies, but gave few details on how they would restore Europe to growth.

The previous week I was in Portugal, reporting on a trade union march in Lisbon, and again I was struck by the advanced age of so many of the participants. Some were heroes of the revolution of 1974, but that is ancient history for many of the young Portuguese who are caught up in the economic crisis.

This is a desperately difficult time to be starting out on a career in Europe. The youth unemployment figures in countries like Greece, Spain and Portugal are staggering. Many of the best and brightest are looking to emigrate.  When I talk to young people in these countries, I often have the impression that they are cynical about trade unions, and see them as part of the established political order.

Sometimes, they see unions as an obstacle to progress, more interested in protecting their own privileges then in changing the economy in ways that would give younger people more chances to find work.

On March 29th, Spanish trade unions held a general strike in protest against changes in the labour law which make it easier for companies to fire workers. (The government argues that Spain's high unemployment is partially a result of the rigidity of existing labour laws, and that greater liberalisation, will, in the long run, bring unemployment down).

The strike was an important test for the unions, whose influence in Spain has been steadily diminishing for many years.  A previous general strike, in late 2010, had not had the impact that many had expected.

This time, the unions were more successful. Transport and industry (two areas where Spanish unions still retain a strong concentration of members) were hit particularly hard. In the evening, there were very big demonstrations in several Spanish cities.

Crucially, many young people joined marches to show their general opposition to austerity, even if they did not belong to a trade union.   I think the Spanish unions may be emboldened by this success; they are threatening more action if the government does not amend the labour law by May 1st.

It will be very interesting to see how the conservative government in Spain responds.  If it does decide to make changes to the law, then Spanish trade unions will have bucked the continent-wide losing trend, and at last recorded a victory for organised labour in Europe.

Muslim Brotherhood nominates multimillionaire presidential candidate

World Socialist Website
Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood nominates presidential candidate

April 6, 2012

Johannes Stern

Last Saturday, the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood (MB) announced it would run its deputy supreme guide, billionaire tycoon Khairat al-Shater, in the Egyptian presidential elections on May 23 and 24.

The decision of the MB and its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), is a turnaround by the group, which had previously said it would not field its own candidate.

Al-Shater’s nomination follows weeks of mounting tensions between the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) military junta and the MB. The MB demanded several times the withdrawal of the interim government of Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri, declaring that it had “failed to fulfill its duties.”

The Islamists demand a strong government, to enforce the cuts demanded by international finance capital against the Egyptian working class, amidst a deepening economic crisis. “People are upset. They feel that the ones they elected cannot do anything for them”, Amr Darrag, a leading member of the FJP, told Egypt Independent. He stressed the need for “a strong presidential candidate” to have “an executive arm to implement the reform agenda.”

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is currently in Egypt, negotiating conditions for a US$3.2 billion loan to prevent Egypt from running out of foreign currency reserves. Reuters examined IMF proposals, which reportedly include plans for “austerity measures and new taxes.”

Some days before the MB announced its decision to run a candidate, the group accused the SCAF of keeping the Ganzouri government in place to “abort the revolution or to orchestrate upcoming presidential elections”. Media reports also discussed the possibility that the generals could challenge the constitutional legitimacy of the parliament, which is dominated by the FJP.

The SCAF hit back at the criticisms with a statement describing them as “baseless slander.” In a threatening tone, it asked “everyone to be aware of the lessons of history to avoid mistakes from a past we do not want to return to, and to look towards the future.” This apparently referred to the events in 1954, when the Free Officers led by Gamal Abdel Nasser cracked down on the Brotherhood, after the MB allegedly tried to assassinate Nasser.

These criticisms mask a complex collaboration between the SCAF junta, its backers in Washington, and the MB in Egypt. Since the junta took power after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak on February 11 of last year, the generals and the Brotherhood have worked to strangle mass struggles by Egyptian workers and youth.

The MB supported a law banning strikes and protests issued by the junta in March 2011, denounced mass protests on Tahrir Square in Cairo, and backed virtually all of the SCAF’s decisions.

The MB, the biggest and best-organised political group in Egypt, controls the majority of the seats in the new parliament, which was elected on low turnout after mass protests against the military last November.

To assuage concerns in the Egyptian military and in Washington that it could make a power grab and pursue a militant Islamist policy, the MB initially claimed it would not run a presidential candidate. It even expelled a longtime leading member, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, after he announced plans to run last year.

The present collaboration between the MB and the army, principally dictated by their common fear of the working class, does not preclude a re-emergence of bitter conflicts between the military and a party that it banned for decades prior to the toppling of Mubarak.

Only recently, one member of the council, General Mahmoud Nasr, warned publicly that the generals would “fight to defend our projects”, a reference to the military’s vast business empire. Al-Shater, a businessmen and former banker, is seen as a potential threat to the army’s economic interests. He personally owns a huge business empire, and hopes to attract more foreign investment and promote further privatisation and liberalisation of the Egyptian economy.

Currently, however, reports suggest that al-Shater’s candidacy enjoys the support of both the army and its imperialist allies in the United States and Europe.

The military released al-Shater from prison last March. He had been arrested in 2006, along with other leading MB members, when the Mubarak regime cracked down on its big-business rivals in the MB. In 2007, he was sentenced by a military court, on charges including money laundering and supplying students with weapons and military training.

He reportedly received the official pardon he needed from the junta in order to run only shortly before announcing his candidacy.

Sameh al-Barqy, a member of the moderate Islamist Egyptian Current Party and former MB member, told Egypt Independent that the group “would never nominate someone without the generals’ approval”. He argued that “Shater is the perfect candidate for the generals. He is a candidate of consensus par excellence. He expresses the economic interests of the West, would guarantee the interests of the military inside Egypt, and in the meantime, he has a beard.”

The US, the main sponsor of the military junta and which has also established close ties with the MB, “offered signs of tacit approval” for al-Shater’s nomination, according to the New York Times. State Department officials said they were “untroubled and even optimistic about the Brotherhood’s reversal of its pledge not to seek the presidency.”

Al-Shater has reportedly been in contact with the US since 2005, when the Bush administration established closer ties with the Islamists; he has met with several top US officials, including US secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

The US is working closely with Sunni Islamist forces in the entire Middle East to pursue its strategic and economic interests. It has established close ties with the Ennahda government in Tunisia, backed Islamist groups in the NATO war against Libya, and is relying on Al Qaeda-type terrorist forces to carry out regime change in Syria. The US’s main allies in preparations for war against Iran are the reactionary Sunni Islamist Gulf monarchies.

On issues of foreign policy, al-Shater has made clear he will not upset the interests of US imperialism in the region. He defends of the peace treaty with Israel as well as other international agreements, including agreements with Israel about oil and natural gas.

In bourgeois media and politics, the presidential elections in Egypt are presented as another step towards “democracy” in Egypt. The example of al-Shater shows they are nothing of the sort. Instead, they are an arena for competing factions of the Egyptian bourgeoisie to work with the US and Europe to try to strangle the Egyptian Revolution and bury the Egyptian working masses’ social and democratic demands.

Coptic teen sentenced to 3 yrs in jail for insulting Islam

Egypt jails Christian student to three years in jail for insulting Islam

April 4, 2012

An Egyptian court on Wednesday sentenced a 17-year-old Christian boy to three years in jail for publishing cartoons on his Facebook page that mocked Islam and the Prophet Mohammad, actions that sparked sectarian violence.

Gamal Abdou Massoud was also accused of distributing some of his cartoons to his school friends in a village in the southern city of Assiut, home to a large Christian population and the hometown of the late Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda.

“Assiut child’s court ordered the jailing of Gamal Abdou Massoud … for three years after he insulted Islam and published and distributed pictures that insulted Islam and its Prophet,” the court said in a statement seen by Reuters.

The cartoons, published by Massoud in December, prompted some Muslims to attack Christians. Several Christian houses were burned and several Christians were injured in the violence.

Human rights lawyer Negad al-Borai said the jail sentence was the maximum penalty under Egyptian law for such a crime.

Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the country’s 80 million population, have long had a difficult relationship with Egypt’s overwhelmingly Muslim majority.

Tension between Muslims and Christians has simmered for years but has got worse since the revolt that toppled Hosni Mubarak.

Christians have become increasingly worried by a surge in attacks on churches, which they blame on hardline Islamists, though experts say local disputes are often also to blame.

*By Ahmed Tolba & Mohamed Abdellah in Cairo

Military junta jails officers who joined protests

Egypt army jails officers who joined protests


CAIRO (Reuters) – Two army officers who took part in protests against Egypt’s ruling generals last year have been jailed by a military court, an army source told Reuters on Wednesday.

Major Ahmed Ali Shouman, who joined crowds calling for an end to military rule following the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak, was sentenced to six years in prison, said the source.

Captain Amr el Metwalli, who also participated in rallies around Cairo’s parliament and cabinet buildings at the end of last year, was jailed for five years, the source added.

“Ahmed Shouman was sentenced to six years in jail, charged with refusing to obey military rules and voicing political views in media outlets,” the army source said, asking not to be identified.

“This was a violation of martial law that bans military personnel from communicating with the media,” the source said, adding Shouman’s sentence will be announced formally at a court hearing on April 11.

Shouman also took part in the uprising against Mubarak that started in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in January last year.

He was pardoned for participating in those protests by Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the ruling military council that took over from Mubarak.

But the latest charges related to his decision to return to the square to join crowds calling for the ruling generals to hand over power to civilians.

El Metwalli, still in his first year of service, was accused of disobeying orders, abandoning his unit, wearing army fatigues outside his unit and publishing material on the internet that would demoralize the army during the protests that left 17 dead, said the source.

The military council, which took over from Mubarak in February last year, has said it will hand over to civilians by July 1. A presidential vote will be held in May and June.

*(Reporting By Marwa Awad; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Workers clash with military police during privatization appeal hearings

Egypt Independent
Workers clash with military police during privatization appeal hearings

Mon, 02/04/2012

Clashes erupted Monday between military police and workers from four companies that courts had returned to state ownership.

The clashes took place during the hearing of appeals filed by the companies’ owners, when military police banned workers from Omar Effendi, Tanta Oil and Flax, Shebeen El-Kom Spinning and Weaving and Al-Nasr for Steam Boilers, who were protesting outside the State Council, from attending the session.

Khaled Ali, lawyer and presidential candidate, shouted slogans against the military inside the council, and requested a meeting with the head of the council to explain the situation to him.

In September, an Egyptian court ordered that Tanta Flax and Oils Company, Shebeen El-Kom Spinning and Weaving and Al-Nasr for Steam Boilers be returned to state control after it was proven that it had been sold to investors at a below-market price.

In May, a court returned Omar Effendi, also purchased by a Saudi investor, to the state for the same reason.

*Translated from Al-Masry Al-Youm
*Photograph by Mohamed Abdel Wahab