Friday, November 11, 2011

Egypt: Global day of solidarity against military junta's trials on Saturday

By William Fisher

Tomorrow, Saturday, November 12, will witness demonstrations in more than 20 capital cities around the world in support of an estimated 12,000 Egyptians who have been subjected to military trials by the country's pro tem leaders, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

The Cairo Daily News reports that protestors will converge on Egyptian embassies and consulates in DC, New York, London, Paris, Frankfurt, Stockholm, Oakland, Melbourne, Montreal, Geneva, Manila and elsewhere.

The demonstrations come only weeks before the first round of Parliamentary elections since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in February.

The generals who now run Egypt have failed to lift the so-called Emergency Laws that have put an iron straightjacket on Egyptian civil rights for thirty years. These laws were used by the now deposed Mubarak to grant the security services and police virtually unfettered freedom to arrest, detain, and often torture. In this respect, little has changed since Mubarak was driven from office.

In Cairo, a new video will be released, revealing the extreme brutality used by the Egyptian military against protestors during the Maspero massacre, the newspaper said.

The Global Day of Action was called by Egyptian movements concerned that the revolution is under attack and could be crushed by growing repression. On October 9th, 28 civilians - most of them Christian Copts -- were killed at Maspero in a continuation of previous violence aimed at silencing dissent. Now the military prosecutor is charging the victims of the Maspero with causing the attack.

Copts make up about five per cent of Egypt's population. They have complained for years that they are discriminated against by the government and some of the people in employment, housing and other issues. Tensions between Copts and Muslims have turned violent many times in the past.

Lobna Darwish, an activist who was present at the Maspero massacre, said "In October the junta ran us over with tanks and shot us down in the street while manipulating state media to incite sectarian violence. The military is trying to entrench its power while weakening the revolutionary forces that ousted Mubarak. But we are still fighting for our revolution."

The newspaper noted that, under the slogan "Defend the Revolution - end military trials in Egypt", "global protests will challenge the military junta's increasing repression and express solidarity with the 12,000 Egyptians subjected to court martials, unable to call witnesses and with limited access to lawyers. These include imprisoned blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah. Alaa refused to co-operate with the military prosecutor on Oct 30th, taking a principled stance against the illegitimacy of the process - a stance since taken up widely by Egyptian social movements."

Mona Seif, Alaa Abdel Fattah's sister and co-ordinator of the No Military Trials for Civilians campaign, said "Military trials are an illegitimate & desperate measure the military junta uses to attack the social movements it fears. They've dragged 12,000 civilians through these kangaroo courts in 9 months - six times the number Mubarak tried in 30 years. Minors are serving in adult prisons, death sentences handed down, torture runs rampant."

The solidarity protests are emerging particularly from the global Occupy/Decolonize movements, with the 99% gaining inspiration from each other's struggle. After the violent eviction in Oakland, Egyptians marched on the US Embassy, while Egyptian flags and Alaa's image were raised at occupations in the US and London. Meanwhile, governments in the US and Europe continue to ally themselves with a military junta intent on stifling real democracy and social justice.

Philip Rizk said "The US gives the Egyptian military $1.3 billion in aid every year. The bullets they kill us with are made in the US. Governments the world over continue their long-term support for the military rulers of Egypt. Force your governments to stop supporting the Egyptian junta. Stop the attacks on the revolution."

Imprisoned blogger Alaa's mother, maths professor and prominent political activist Dr. Laila Soueif, is about to enter her second week of an open-ended hunger strike to protest the illegal imprisonment of her son. Soueif, 55, is a founding member of the Kefaya movement.

Soueif said "I reject that civilians be subjected to court-martial under laws put in place by illegitimate authorities that have forcefully usurped the rule of our country for decades" and promises to "continue my hunger strike until the release of my son, no matter how long his detention lasts."

Alaa is now in Tora maximum security prison. His wife, Manal, is due to give birth to their first child, Khalid, on November 24th. In a tweet, shortly before his arrest, Alaa wrote: "Dear friends and comrades, the best way to help me is to raise a lot of noise about the injustice of civilians facing military trials in Egypt."

And to make matters even more confusing for ordinary Egyptians, the ruling generals have recently proposed a document of supra-constitutional principles

Islamists as well as other political parties have continued their fervent opposition to a proposal by Deputy Prime Minister Ali El Selmi earlier this month, and have promised to stage massive protests on Friday, November 18 if their demands are not met.

El-Selmi's proposed charter of constitutional principles has triggered condemnation for the powers it gives the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), overriding an elected government.

According to the proposed charter, the new parliament will elect the 100-member constituent assembly, which will consist of 80 members from outside the parliament and 20 elected MPs reflecting the percentage of seats won by their parties.

However, SCAF has the power to veto any article it deems contradictory to the principles of previous constitutions and the interim constitutional declaration instated on March 30, 2011. SCAF would then refer the contentious article to the Supreme Constitutional Court for a final decision.

In case the assembly fails to draft the constitution within the set six-month timeframe, SCAF will have the power to dissolve it and appoint a new assembly.

Egypt's generals have ridden a rollercoaster journey through respect and affection during the Tahrir Square demonstrations to a state of suspicion and contempt now. The good will the army once enjoyed is virtually non-existent now; in the view of the demonstrators the military betrayed the Tahrir Revolution and reverted to the tactics of Egyptian strongmen dictators.

Meanwhile, the newspaper Ahram English Online has published a chronology of the SCAF's "brief history of injustice" during its tenure as the ruling power in Egypt. It outlines a number of "crimes against human rights" that the SCAF has vowed to investigate. At the top of the list is the violence in Maspero last month, in which the army has been implicated. The article also notes that despite the military's promise to investigate, there have yet to be any significant arrest over many of the abuses. The violations include torture, vandalism of churches, violence against protesters and corruption.
The army's position is that its actions have been necessary to maintain law and order and prevent the post-revolutionary euphoria from morphing into lawless chaos.