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3000 Egyptians have faced military trials in last 5 months

A conference by the No to Military Trials campaign revealed the extent of the arrests
Defendants stand behind bars as they wait for a verdict in a trial (AFP)

3000 civilians have been tried in military courts in Egypt in the last five months, an activist group said on Tuesday.

Legislation passed by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in October 2014 to classify crimes taking place on “vital” institutions as within the jurisdiction of the military courts has resulted in thousands of people being prosecuted outside the civil courts, said the No to Military Trials campaign.

The findings were released as part of the campaign's fourth annual conference, in which a number of lawyers and activists criticised the legislation, and has resulted in even universities being classified on a par with military institutions.

“The law that enabled military courts to try civilians stipulated that this judiciary is independent, but it is not independent at all,” said lawyer Ahmed Heshmat. “Military judges are employees of the Defence Ministry, and as such they have to adhere to the demands of their superiors.”

“Verdicts issued by military courts should be approved by the military leader or his deputy, and he has the right to request the amending of a sentence, or a retrial if the defendants were acquitted,” he added.

Seif al-Islam Farag, an activist from the Horreya (Freedom) campaign stated that they had recorded cases of 160 students being referred to military tribunals, including 48 students from Mansoura University, 31 from Al-Azhar University and 14 from Minoufiya University.

The father of 19-year-old Ain Shams student Mohamed al-Araby told the conference that his son had been arrested when five police officers stormed his house under charges of “spreading false news about the armed forces”.

“Days later, I found a lawyer asking for a lot of money to defend my son who was facing a military trial,” he said.

“When I went to military prosecution, I was told there is no need to hire a lawyer, as the case would be heard by a misdemeanor court and not a criminal one. I have just realised that the case was referred to criminal court,” he added.

Egypt has been in a state of unrest since a military coup ousted democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood-backed President Mohamed Morsi in the Summer of 2013.

In that time, there has been a brutal crackdown on supporters of the Brotherhood with thousands killed and arrested.

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