Abasseya trials highlight lack of open and fair judicial system

Luiz Sanchez
4 Min Read
Protests against military trials earlier this year (AFP/file)
Protests against military trials earlier this year (AFP/file)
Protests against military trials earlier this year (AFP/file)

The Abasseya case is once again set to resume today and there are still more sessions this week and next for verdicts in the rest of the cases. The military court issued sentences in 12 cases resulting in the acquittals of 51 people. The court, however, issued three to one year verdicts for 24 people on Tuesday.

One of the perplexing aspects of the cases are the lack of clear charges, as one member of the No Military Trials for Civilians Movement (NMTCM) Salma Abdelgelil mentioned.

“The exact reasoning for the sentences hasn’t been shared yet with the lawyers but one charge will be attacking  military personnel,” said Abdelgelil.

President Mohamed Morsy pardoned only a fraction of the thousands still facing military trials last week. The committee Morsy tasked with investigating cases of civilians in military trials only has jurisdiction to look into cases of those arrested from the onset of the revolution to the handing of power from the Supreme Council of Armed Forces to the president.

“This means that any case that is still running and/or has been tried after the transfer of power will not be in the jurisdiction of this committee,” Abdelgelil explained. “The victims of military trials in Abasseya will only get a pardon if the committee extends its work OR the president issues them a special pardon.”

The committee only has the power to provide recommendations, while  Morsy still has the power to grant presidential pardons to anyone he wishes. While pardons would see many detainees released, Abdelgelil believes pardoning does not remove the burden of blame from the civilians, and does nothing to address the legality of the trials.“We believe that all civilians tried in military tribunals are victims of the state because they were denied a free and fair trial,” she said.

Once released on a pardon, the individual still carries the burden of blame, meaning that “they would still have a criminal record which makes their lives difficult after they get out of prison, their reputation is impacted and so is their chances of finding decent jobs.”

The NMTCM are piling pressure on the civilian government to live up to their promises of releasing detainees. In response to the Abasseya trial the NMTCM has strongly denounced, “not only the sentencing but the mere fact that this sham of a trial is still going on even after electing a civilian president.”

Earlier this month eight people protesting in support of the Abasseya detainees were sentenced in military trials in Suez. The NMTCM held a public conference in Suez just before Ramadan as a show of solidarity and support for the Suez detainees, promising that they will continue to rally for their freedom and they will “continue to create public pressure for the cases that are still running as well the ones that have been closed.”

“Our demands include that the state officially recognize that these citizens were wronged and offers a formal apology to them and proper compensation for the brutal torture most of them have been subjected to,” the No Military Trials for Civilians movement statement read. “They must nullify the sentences and if need be refer their cases to civilian courts and finally ensure that the law is amended or changed in a way that this practice is stopped in the future and no civilian is ever tried in military tribunals again.”


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Luiz is a Brazilian journalist in Cairo @luizdaVeiga