Egypt military to reconsider protester sentences
CAIRO — Egypt’s military rulers, who have drawn fire from youth groups for a crackdown on protests, said on Thursday they were reviewing the cases of protesters recently sentenced in military trials.
The transitional military government, which took over after protests forced president Hosni Mubarak from office in February, said on its Facebook page that an appeal from one protester’s mother moved it to grant him a new trial.
“The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces affirms it is reconsidering the status of all the youths who were sentenced recently,” it added.
Heba Morayef, a Cairo-based researcher with New York-based Human Rights Watch, said dozens of protesters had received sentences from military courts since March.
The military came under intense criticism from youth organisers after one person was killed when soldiers dispersed an overnight protest on April 9.
“If this is a face-saving statement before they release the activists, then it’s good,” said Morayef.
“But if they’re just going to re-try them before military courts, then we’re no better off than before because they need to be tried before a civilian court,” she said.
The military has denied abusing protesters, but human rights groups have accused it of beating detainees and allegedly forcing virginity tests on women demonstrators it arrested when clearing another protest in the square in March.
A general on the ruling council later said the soldiers did not “use violence and thuggery” and warned Egyptians to ignore “accusations and slander… that only serve the revolution’s enemies.”
The military has also drawn diplomatic flak for sentencing a blogger to three years in prison this week after he posted criticism.