Twelve prominent Egyptian activists, including Wael Ghonim and presidential hopeful Bothaina Kamel, have reportedly been referred to a military court on charges of attempting to bring down the state and inciting hatred against the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). Egypt’s military leaders have faced widespread criticism since they came into power after the fall of Mubarak. Activists working with the No Military Trials Campaign have been campaigning on behalf of 12,000 civilians tried and imprisoned by the military, and report that only 2,613 civilians have been released.
Ten months in a tiny prison cell with padded walls and flickering lights have done little to alter 26 year-old Egyptian blogger Maikel Nabil’s views on the military government running Egypt in the transitional phase. Instead, his confinement appears to have only strengthened his resolve to continue the fight against what he describes as a “corrupt regime” that he hopes, will soon be toppled.
Maikel was released on the 24th of January after the military rulers announced they would pardon 1959 political detainees (who had faced military tribunals) ahead of the first anniversary of the 25 January Revolution. The move was seen by skeptics as an attempt to appease a public that has grown increasingly weary of heavy handed military rule. Maikel had been charged with allegedly “spreading rumours about the army and insulting the military establishment” but insists these were “trumped up charges” to punish him for publicly criticising the military in his blog posts.
Leading a protest through the streets of downtown Cairo on Saturday, Maikel chanted anti-military slogans and beckoned to fellow Egyptians on the street to join the rally. “Are you not Egyptian?” he cried. “Have your rights not been violated?” Scores of young activists — many of whom had themselves been subjected to torture and abuse at the hands of security forces — chanted after him. Their cries of “Down with military rule!” and “Yes, we dare to chant against the military” were met with nods of approval from pedestrians and commuters, some of whom signaled a thumbs up in agreement.
Earlier in a press conference at the Journalists’ Syndicate, Maikel shocked journalists with a graphic account of his jail experience. He recalled having endured verbal abuse and mockery by prison guards and interrogators, being forced to watch fellow convicts being tortured and having had chemicals sprayed up his nose and drugs infused in his meals in attempts to manipulate his thinking. Maikel was then transferred to El- Abbasiya Mental Health Hospital for checks on his sanity. Doctors had resisted pressure from authorities to declare him psychologically unstable for refusing to stand trial, he said.
Samira Ibrahim, a protester who had been detained and subjected to a forced virginity test on the 9 March for camping out in Tahrir Square joined Maikel’s march from the Journalists’ Syndicate to Tahrir Square. She challenged the military council, filing a lawsuit against military rulers for humiliating checks performed on 17 female protesters by a male doctor in the Cairo Museum grounds. She lamented that despite a ruling by a Cairo Adminstrative Court in December declaring an end to the practice, “attempts are underway to change the charge from rape to indecent assault.”
Meanwhile, thousands of Egyptians took to the streets Saturday to commemorate the “Friday of Rage” — the worst day of violence in last year’s mass uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak. The biggest rally was held on Kasr El Nil Bridge, scene of last year’s bloody clashes between security forces and pro-democracy activists.The protesters demanded justice for the victims and their families, vowing to continue the revolution until their demands are met.
Joining the Kasr el Nil protest, Maikel warned the revolutionaries that their struggle against the military dictatorship must continue “lest the revolution be aborted and they all end up behind bars.” He and the other activists pledged they will not rest until the military returns to the barracks, handing over power to a civilian government.
Imprisoned blogger Maikel Nabil ended his 130-day hunger strike on Saturday after being transferred to a prison hospital on 1 January following allegations of abuse in the jail where he has been held since March 2011.
Mark Nabil, the blogger’s brother, reported that Maikel was assaulted in the prison following a 30 December visit. The next day his lawyer filed a complaint with the attorney general and the allegations are now being investigated.
According to Mark, an inmate beat his brother, and his complaints were ignored. He said police officers threatened to frame Maikel for religious contempt against the inmate, a former police officer imprisoned on murder charges who allegedly receives special treatment in jail.
Nabil, who was recently sentenced to two years in prison for insulting the military and “spreading false information” on his blog, went on hunger strike in order to draw attention to his case and expose the injustice of Egyptian military trials.
On 28 December, he wrote a blogpost from prison, slamming statements made by Mukhtar Al-Mulla, the general of Egypt’s ruling military council. Al-Mulla had dismissed concerns about the well-known cases of activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah and Nabil, saying that even though both “are Egyptian citizens”, and are “keen to protect all Egyptians,” they were only discussing “one citizen out of 85 million.”
Quoting John Stuart Mill, Nabil said:
If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.
Nabil then addressed his pleas to Egyptian society:
I am addressing myself to society, a society that was taught to accept the violation of One Citizen’s rights for the greater good of the community, as if the power that oppresses one will be able to later respect the rights of the community. This society that has accepted the displacement of the Nubian community in the name of national interest, that has accepted the expulsion of Egyptian Jews, the confiscation of their property, the revoking of their nationality, in the name of the interests of the majority. The same society that has sequestered gay rights, that has limited the individual freedoms of individuals under the guise of maintaining the family system and the interests of the greater society. It is time for the 85 Million to understand that their freedom is tied to the freedom of that One Citizen, that all freedom is lost once they allow the wolf to choose the first victim from amongst the herd, that they cannot regain the freedom of society unless every One Citizen is free.
Detained blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah (@alaa) was denied a request to be released from detention by the High State Security Court on 5 December, preventing him from being present for the birth of his son the next day.
A Cairo-based media collective called Mosireen made a video showing the blogger at his trial, followed by a clip of baby Khalid with his mother, blogger Manal Hassan, after his birth on 6 December.
Abdel Fattah’s son was named Khalid after the iconic Khalid Said, whose brutal beating by Alexandria police in 2010 made him one of the icons of Egypt’s revolution. The birth of Khalid during the detention of his father has become an unfortunate family tradition, as Abdel Fattah’s sister and fellow activist, Mona Seif, was born while her father, a human rights lawyer was serving time in prison for his work.
Abdel Fattah, who has been detained since 30 October, was initially detained for 15 days, and since then his prison sentence has been extended twice, bringing his total time in prison to 45 days. He was initially prosecuted by the military court, but had his case transferred to civil prosecution on 22 November. While there was initial hope in the transfer, many have been dismayed by the continuation of the same pattern. Abdel Fattah has previously refused to be interrogated by military prosecutors, as he has been active in speaking out against the practice of trying civilians by the military. Abdel Fattah is scheduled to appear in court on Sunday, where he will learn whether or not his detention will be extended for another 15 days, pending investigation.