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NoMilTrials protest dispersed; prominent activists detained

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33 arrested inside Shura Council prompts 10 Constituent Assembly members to suspend work; additional protests held in Talaat Harb Square

 Egyptian policemen use a water canon to disperse protesters during a demonstration organized by the group "No Military Trials for Civilians" in front of the Shura council in downtown Cairo on November 26, 2013 against the new law passed the previous day regulating demonstrations in the first unauthorised protest staged in the capital since the adoption of the law. (AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI)

Egyptian policemen use a water canon to disperse protesters during a demonstration organized by the group “No Military Trials for Civilians” in front of the Shura council in downtown Cairo on November 26, 2013 against the new law passed the previous day regulating demonstrations in the first unauthorised protest staged in the capital since the adoption of the law.
(AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI)

A Tuesday protest by the No Military Trials for Civilians group was forcibly dispersed by security forces, leading to 33 arrests.

Ten Constituent Assembly members subsequently suspended work in response to the arrests of protesters and their detainment inside the Shura Council building where the assembly session was being held, according to a senior assembly member. The members in question included Khaled Youssef, Hoda El-Sada, Ahmed Eid, Mohamed Abu El-Ghar, and Diaa Rashwan.

Protesters initially gathered in Tahrir Square and marched towards the Shura Council, where they joined other around 100 other demonstrators chanting “police are thugs” and “down with military rule”.

Lawyer from the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights Malek Adly, who was present at the protests, said they were “protesting against both the Protest Law and military trials of civilians,”

“The state needs to understand that oppressive laws will not shut people up,” Adly said. “It will only motivate us to protest more.”

Several political movements were present in front of the Shura Council, including the Revolutionary Socialists and the 6 April Youth Movement.

Security forces used a water cannon before starting arrests. Mohamed AbdelAziz, one of the arrested lawyers alleged that 33 individuals were arrested, including 20 men and 13 women, who were detained inside the Shura Council.

After the dispersal, protesters scattered from Simon Bolivar Street near Tahrir Square and Kasr Al Nil Bridge. Heavy tear gas could be sensed.

Protesters started chanting  against the military and police at the bridge.
Rumors spread of many other people arrested. One protestor said jokingly “we got destroyed in there, no worries, let’s regroup”.

Protestors regrouped and decided to start walking to avoid getting arrested. They arrived at Talaat Harb Square and started chanting against the military and saying “the people demand the end  of the regime”

Feminist group Fouada Watch confirmed that the arrests included No Military Trials for Civilians leader Mona Seif, feminist movie director Aida El Kashef and feminist activist Salma Saied, human rights lawyer at Al-Haqanya organisation Mohamed Abdel Aziz, and Al Masry Al Youm journalist Ahmad Ragab.

“The military authority is legislating oppressive laws,” said leading Revolutionary Socialist figure Haytham Mohamadein. “Even after dispersing Jika’s march and the Shura Council march, we are protesting again in Talaat Harb…it doesn’t matter if they disperse this one too. We will continue our protests.”

“The revolution is activated again,” said another Talaat Harb protester. “This is 25 January all over again…these laws remind me of the Mubarak era, especially 2008 and 2005.”

At the time of writing, clashes in downtown Cairo were ongoing.

The No Military Trials for Civilians group had organised the protests to express their opposition to the inclusion of an article in the upcoming constitution allowing military courts to try civilians.

On Tuesday the group issued a statement condemning the article as “a crime”.

Article 174 in its current form says the military judiciary has authority to rule in cases relating to the Armed Forces, its officers, its personnel, and those in its jurisdiction. Military courts would also have power to take on cases in situations in which members of General Intelligence commit alleged crimes.

Interim President Adly Mansour issued on Sunday the Protest Law drafted by the Ministry of Justice and approved by the cabinet to regulate the right to peaceful assembly. The draft law stipulates that violation of this law would be punished by a two-to-five-year imprisonment and/or fines between EGP 50,000 and 200,000, while holding a protest without prior notification would be fined by EGP 10,000 to 30,000. ‘No Military Trials’ did not take authorization for the protest.

Earlier that day, the Ministry of Interior approved two protests as per the new Protest Law, approved by interim President Adly Mansour on Sunday.

The ministry said it had received applications from “lawyers and political powers” to hold protests outside the Lawyers Syndicate in Cairo and the State Council building in Giza. The Ministry declined to provide further details regarding the applicants or the agreed time for the demonstrations to take place.

Interim Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim held a meeting on Monday afternoon to discuss the implementation of the new law that has received much criticism both domestically and internationally.  During the meeting Ibrahim stressed the need for the ministry to make plans ensure that approved demonstrations do not block roads. He added that there is a commitment to “implement the procedures set by the law in dealing with demonstrations if they are not peaceful.”

The Ministry of Interior said in a statement on Tuesday evening that it had monitored 6 April Youth Movement’s calls for protests prior to the demonstrations outside the Shura Council.  The ministry added that it had communicated with former coordinator of the movement Ahmed Maher informing him that since he called for protests, he should go to Qasr Al-Nil police station to obtain approval for the protest.

“But he insisted on refusing and planning the protest without notifying the concerned police department,” the statement read.

6 April media director Khaled Al-Masry denied that the group had organised the protest, saying it had only been a participant.

At around 5pm, approximately 200 people rallied outside the Shura Council “violating the Protest Law” through blocking the road and stalling traffic, the ministry said, after which Security forces issued warnings and called on the protesters to leave, to no avail. The ministry accused the protesters of pelting security forces with rocks, which “urged” them to respond with using water cannons. The Ministry of Interior said security forces were able to disperse the protest and arrest 28 “rioters”; a report of the incident was filed and the public prosecution was notified to begin its interrogations.

Political groups and activists criticised the new law for violating the right to protest and freedom of assembly, saying that it makes it almost impossible to hold a protest.

About the authors

Joel Gulhane

News Reporter

Joel Gulhane is a journalist with an interest in Egyptian and regional politics. Follow him on Twitter @jgulhane


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