CAIRO: The No to Military Trials for Civilians campaign at a press conference Thursday urged Egyptians to boycott military trials whether they are summoned as suspects or witnesses.
"This is the step we can take now as a response to the abuses of the military council since the revolution, and their escalation by referring Alaa Abdel-Fattah, Bahaa Saber and other civilians and activists to the military prosecution," said journalist Rasha Azab, also member of the campaign.
The campaign also called for the release of more than 12,000 civilians who were sentenced in military courts.
Abdel-Fattah, Saber and Mina Danial, who was killed in the bloody Oct. 9 Maspero, along with other activists topped a list of suspects to be charged with inciting the clashes which left 27 dead and over 300 injured.
Abdel Fattah and Saber both refused to be questioned by the military prosecution, since they believe that the military is party to the crime they’re probing and hence should not be investigating the Maspero incidents in the first place.
In addition to inciting violence, both were summoned for interrogation for suspicion of involvement in seizing military equipment and vandalizing military property.
Unlike Abdel-Fattah, Saber, was released without bail. An appeal to release Abdel-Fattah was rejected Thursday.
"If we boycott military courts, the only response SCAF can make is to either order military police to arrest us on the streets, which will show people how similar they are to the [disbanded] state security forces," Azab said.
Priest Felopateer, whose name was also on the suspects list for inciting the Maspero clashes, and lawyer Khaled Ali, an activist with the Egyptian Center of Economic and Social Rights (ECESR), called upon Egyptians to thoroughly reread the fact-finding mission’s report by the National Council for Human Rights on the clashes. They believe the report proved that the military used live ammunition against protesters in the Maspero clashes.
However, the report had explicitly said that a third party is blamed for the use of live ammunition, and only accused the military of running over protesters, killing at least 12.
According to outspoken novelist, Alaa Al-Aswany, the revolution did not succeed in preserving the dignity of the Egyptian citizen.
"A new tool of repression was added to the brutal state security, which they lied to us by saying they dissolved it and turned it into the National Security Apparatus, only a change of name. They added the military police apparatus which committed crimes that are internationally recognized," he said.
They cannot be the defendant and the judge at the same time, he added, especially that some of those questioned by the military prosecution were accused of insulting or confronting SCAF.
Al-Aswany called upon the SCAF to free the 12,000 civilian in military prisons and retry them before a civilian court.
"The military prosecution should instead investigate the crimes committed by the military police," he said.
After analyzing the actions of the military police, Al-Aswany said he found that they take action for two reasons. "Either to suppress revolutionary protesters or to rescue a figure that is affiliated to the toppled regime," he said.
Khaled Ali, who also works with Defending Egypt’s Protesters Front, called upon the military council to hand over power to civilians. If the ruling military council decides to stay in power until the end of the transitional period they should issue a decree that would differentiate between the procedures they use in their barracks and how they act while governing the state, he added.
Felopateer said that although he was not officially summoned to the military prosecution, he went voluntarily as a gesture of respect.
"Alaa Abdel-Fattah’s family refused to say what I’m going to say fearing to be accused of calling for sectarianism. I was suspected of mostly the same issues as Alaa; however, I’m a free man until now and he was arrested for 15 days pending investigation," Felopateer said, pointing out that this is evidence to the subjectivity of the military prosecution and that it is not independent from SCAF.
"This has only two meanings. Either they have other secret equations and accounts which mean they are not independent or that they are prosecuting Alaa for other [unrelated] accusations," he said.
Felopateer stressed that the Maspero clashes between the military and protesters, mainly Copts, was not sectarian. He called upon Egyptians to forgo that claim. "We are all Egyptians," he said.
A judge refused Thursday Abdel Fattah’s release appeal sustaining his 15-day detention, according to Mona Seif, Abdel Fattah’s sister and coordinator of the No to Military Trials campaign.
"They are prosecuting civilians before military courts while we have not heard of a single soldier involved in the clashes being tried," she added.
Among the activists attending the conference were Mary Danial, Mina’s sister, Vivian Magdy, a blogger and fiancé of Michel Mosa’d who died in the Maspero clashes, Gamal Eid, head of ANHRI, and Sherif Zenhom, who was recently released after receiving a suspended sentence by military court.
He was arrested in connection with the protests outside the Israeli embassy on Sept. 9.