The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) expresses full condemnation of the step taken by the authorities recently to refer 40 of key Muslim Brother (MB) leaders to military trial, allegedly for several charges including membership of a group founded in opposition to constitutional provisions, money laundering, and the use of credit to fund activities of the banned group.
CIHRS considers that referral of the defendants – all of whom civilians- to military trial represents a flagrant intervention by the Executive Authorities in the conduct of justice, and a spoliation of the defendants’ constitutional right to appear before their natural judge, in addition to the implications of this step – and the accompanying procedures- namely, the excessive underrating of the independence of the judiciary and the due respect of judicial decisions and rulings.
This step came a few days after the Cairo Criminal Court issued its decision on January 29th 2007 to release 16 of the defendants, on top of whom Khairat Al Shater, the second deputy to the general guide of the MB. They were immediately released from the Court premises with a bail not exceeding five hundred pounds each. The Court specified the 24th of February 2007 as a date to review the challenge by the defendants to the Prosecutor General’s decision to seize the funds of 29 among them.
Instead of respecting court rulings, the Ministry of Interior used the Emergency Law to defraud the release decisions, by ordering anew the arrest of the defendants, who were soon taken back to the Mazraa’ Tora Prison instead of being released. Defendants were then snatched away from their natural judge to appear before military justice for crimes totally irrelevant to the military system.
The phenomenon of referring civilians to military courts –which recently receded to a great extent-, represents a grave breach of human rights,and the criteria of justice and independence of the judiciary, since military justice lacks guarantees of impartiality and autonomy supposedly enjoyed by natural justice. Defendants appearing before military justice are deprived of their right to reconsider the rulings of military courts, which are incontenstable before a superior judiciary body. Unfortunately, the authorities are raising again the tool of military trials against political opponents, the last of which being the military trial of former member of Parliament Talaat Al Sadat.
CIHRS believes that the resumption of the phenomenon of referral to military trials implies a persistent intention to give priority to police and security measures in confrontations with political opponents. It also casts more doubts on the outcome of constitutional amendments that are being planned for by government, and that they might be a serious relapse to constitutional guarantees touching upon fundamental freedoms of citizens, under the cloak of anti-terrorism.
CIHRS recurrently stresses its condemnation of referring MB defendants to military trial. Meanwhile, CIHRS calls upon different political and civil forces aspiring for a genuine and serious democratic reform, to reject the resolution of conflicts with any political faction through security banishment, exceptional measures and trials, which are unfair in total, and ensure the right of defendants in the case at hand to appear before their natural judge.
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