The ‘Agroot Military Court handed out prison sentences to twelve people in Suez during its Monday session.
The court issued its verdict in the case of six Suez residents who squatted in empty buildings to demand government housing, sentencing them to six months in prison. The court also issued a verdict for six men who held a sit-in in a port in Suez, who received three months’ detention.
The Suez squatters were charged with physically assaulting military personnel and resisting arrest, while the other six men faced charges for verbally assaulting military personnel.
Military police initially arrested seven people for their involvement in the port sit-in but a 15 year old detainee was referred to a juvenile detention facility.
The men held a sit-in at the port from 15 to 20 March protesting their unemployment and demanding the government provide them with jobs, said No to Military Trials for Civilians Movement member Mahmoud Salmani.
Military police arrested the seven men during the fifth day of their sit in and they were charged with verbally assaulting military officers.
The six squatters were arrested on the same day. On 16 March families of the detainees occupied three vacant buildings in the “Freedom Area” neighbourhood as squatters to prove that housing units were available despite the Suez governorate’s claims.
The squatters requested the army’s presence to corroborate their case. They agreed that they would leave the buildings if asked to do so by army officers. Army officers did not order them to leave, but refused to corroborate the squatters’ claims.
Four days later the squatters were attacked by men allegedly hired by the governorate and called the army again for help, only for the military to arrest them instead, Salmani said.
Article 198 of the new constitution allows for military trials for civilians in special circumstances “as regulated by the law”. Over 12,000 civilians have faced military trials since the January 2011 uprising that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak.
Three military trials have taken place since the adoption of the constitution in December.