Monday, June 04, 2007

Government Takes Steps to Ensure MB Trial Kept from Public Scrutiny

Amnesty International today released the following statement:

The Egyptian government yesterday refused to allow human rights groups to observe the military trial of 33 leading members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, undercutting the government’s claims that civilians will have a fair trial before military courts, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today.

Amnesty International, the Arab Commission for Human Rights, the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, and Human Rights Watch had sent observers to monitor the trial of 33 leading members of the Brotherhood. None of the groups was allowed to attend. Among the accused is Khairat al-Shatir, the organization’s deputy supreme guide, who was arrested on December 14, 2006, along with 16 other prominent Muslim Brotherhood members in predawn raids. They were subsequently charged with membership in a banned organization, providing students with weapons and military training. On January 29, 2007, a Cairo criminal court dismissed all charges against al-Shatir and his co-defendants and ordered their immediate release. Security forces re-arrested the men moments after the ruling, and on February 4, President Hosni Mubarak, ignoring the court’s verdict, ordered the cases, and those of 23 other alleged members of the Brotherhood, transferred to a military court. On May 8, a Cairo administrative court ruled that President Mubarak’s order was invalid, but on May 14, the Supreme Administrative court reversed that decision after the government appealed. After the June 3 session, the court adjourned until July 15.

The trial observers arrived at the outskirts of Haikstip Military Camp, northeast of Cairo, at 9 a.m. and negotiated with officers at the scene and representatives of several ministries until 2 p.m., when a man in civilian clothes and military intelligence officers finally told them they would not be allowed in. Lawyers, daughters, and wives of the accused were allowed to attend the trial.

“Twelve years ago the court granted me unfettered access when I observed the military trial of senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood,” said Palestinian lawyer Anis Kassim, Amnesty International’s senior trial observer. “I am extremely disappointed in the government’s attitude this time.”

For the full statement, click here.

When the Mubarak government feels like they have something to hide, they do so with good reason. Open, public trials are a cornerstone to a transparent, healthy and independent judicial system, something the Egyptians have taken much pride in until the Mubarak government has attempted to remove all three of those adjectives from it. We have heard promises that military and security courts would be ended. There can be no doubt now that those promises will never be met.


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