The Suez Military Court sentenced on Monday 20 civilians to prison for assaulting the armed forces in August 2013.
Two of the defendants, Mahmoud Imam and Ali Saeed, were sentenced to life imprisonment after being tried in absentia. They are both fugitives.
The military prosecution accused the defendants of violence, use of force, and threatening three field army personnel securing the Suez governorate building and other vital facilities in Suez by throwing rocks at them.
Mostafa Kamel, a student in Al-Qasr Al-Aini Medical School, and an unnamed Salafist nicknamed “Horus”, were sentenced to 10 years in prison.
A minor, 16 year-old Mostafa Hany, was handed a one year sentence.
Defendant Ahmad Nour El-Din refused to get a lawyer because he said he did not recognise the legitimacy of military trials, according to Mahgoub Salmani, a member of No Military Trials for Civilians group. Nour El-Din was sentenced to seven years.
The remaining defendants were handed between 7 and 10 years imprisonment.
“Again and again, we refuse having civilians tried in front of a military court. It is a violation of human rights,” Salmani said. “It is human nature to be biased towards your institution against those outside it.”
He added that a military judge is an official in the military, not an independent judge.
“We demand fair civil trials,” said Salmani, emphasising that even civil trials are not fair nowadays in Egypt.
President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi issued a decree on 27 October that will refer those accused of crimes against the state’s “vital” facilities to military prosecution.
The law “[pertains] to the protection of vital and public facilities” according to a Monday presidential statement, which added that the armed forces and police will coordinate to protect these facilities.
Among the facilities “protected against terrorist attacks” by the new law are “stations, power networks and towers, gas and oil fields, rail lines, road networks, bridges”, according to presidential spokesman Alaa Youssef.
The law will remain in place for two years.