August 18, 2011

Egyptian military plays foul on Amr El-Beheiry

Unbearable news come tonight from the military court that deals with the appeal of Amr El-Beheiry, a young Egyptian man who took part in a peaceful demonstration in February at Tahrir square, got arrested by the military and sentenced to 5 years in jail in a quick trial in absence of any lawyers. - That in itself was a gross violation of international judicial standards and nothing short of a violation of human rights.

Amr El-Beheiry, who has been torn from his life by the military now for already 6 months, jailed in the notorious Wadi El Gedid prison where he was badly beaten and abused, appealed against this unfair verdict in March. Today - 5 months later - the court has announced the first date for the appeal hearing - May 1, 2012!

What must Amr feel tonight? How devastated must he be without hope that his normal life will be restored again? For reasons beyond comprehension the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) just is not listening to all the appeals by Human Rights Watch, amnesty international and many human rights organizations and activists in Egypt to retry Amr and set him free. With the setting of the appeal date to May 2012 they have condemned Amr El-Beheiry to 15 months imprisonment - before his appeal is even discussed for the first time!

What kind of judicial procedures are these where the rights of a prisoner are so grossly violated, where his justified demand that the verdict is investigated is ignored for such an unbearable stretch of time? Unfortunately in military trials the verdict can not be appealed with regard to contents but merely with regard to procedural flaws. But these have been more than evident in his case because his quick trial without hearing the witnesses and without allowing for a defense are violating all procedural requirements of a fair trial as laid down in international agreements.

Only yesterday Human Rights Watch has pointed out that the broad jurisdictional basis of the Code of Military Justice in Egypt is incompatible with international human rights standards because it allows for military trials of civilians without any subject-jurisdiction limitations. The United Nations Human Rights Committee, the expert body that provides authoritative interpretations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Egypt is a party, states categorically in its recently issued General Comment No. 34, on Article 19 on Freedom of Expression, that, “States parties should not prohibit criticism of institutions, such as the army or the administration.” By this standard, article 184 of the Egyptian penal code, which criminalizes “insulting the People’s Assembly, the Shura Council or any State Authority, or the Army or the Courts,” is incompatible with international law and must be amended accordingly.

All this does not help Amr El-Beheiry. His military jailers ignore international standards and all appeal to fairness from Egyptian activists and human rights groups. For Amr this day is the crushing of all hopes that he will after all be retried and set free, as others have been in the last months. Why the SCAF is so determined to destroy this young man's life is inexplicable. But it will fuel the hatred even more the SCAF has already garnered for its notorious violation of human rights standards while at the same time pretending to be "with the people of Egypt".

Is the SCAF with Amr El-Beheiry and his family? Hardly, or they would not torture them to this extreme. There is no excuse whatsoever for treating an innocent young man in this abhorrent way while disregarding all efforts by the people to restore freedom and dignity to the battered soul of Egypt.

Let us fight for Amr El-Beheiry's freedom each day anew. Let us not accept this delay of the appeal date. Let us not look away and forget him, for his plight stands exemplary for the plight of more then 10.000 Egyptians that have been tried by the military in unfair military court trials since January 25 with little or no hope to regain the freedom they once went out in January 2011 to fight with their lives for.

Did the SCAF fight with their lives to free Egypt of its dictatorship - or is the SCAF proving day by day that they have been and are part of the dictatorship? - They did not fight with their lives. They watched from the comfort of their privileged seats. And whether they are just a continuation of the dictatorial regime - well that is something for them to answer.

With keeping Amr El-Baheiry in jail and ignoring all calls for a fair retry they might once again have given us the answer. It's not a pleasant one, so much is certain.


This is Amr's story:

Amr El Beheiry, was arrested on Feb 26 at night at Midan Tahrir. Although - as is proven by many witnesses - Amr was peaceful and unarmed, he was arrested by the military because of ‘possession of weapons‘. They beat him severely - then had to notice that in fact he was not having any weapons on him. Bruised and battered Amr was released. Bad luck to be victim to such a mistake.

Shortly after his release the protesters decided to leave Tahrir for home. Amr with others got into a car but they did not get far. Still within looking distance of those they had just parted from, the car was suddenly busted by another group of army personnel, the occupants dragged out and arrested. Amr - who clearly had done nothing - again was in the hands of the military.

At the military court - in one of those notorious quick trials that no one was allowed to attend -  he was sentenced to 5 years in prison although he had done nothing and no arms existed that he was said to have carried. The testimonial from Prof. Leila Soueif, who had been at Tahrir and had witnessed the abuse against Amr and could prove that he was abducted from the car, had no weapons and not done anything, went into the trash. Because - who at a military trial is remotely interested in the truth? No one.

So the injustice began and has not stopped ever since. While the verdicts against protesters arrested on March 9 were held back and not ratified and those protesters in the meantime came free, the verdict against Amr El Beheiry was for unknown reasons ratified. That shut the door for him, for now the military could not release him like the others without losing their face.

There is no justification for such an act of injustice as this. If other protesters could be set free that were just as peaceful as Amr El Beheiry there is no reason in the world why this young man must serve a 5 years sentence! Just so the SCAF can keep its face?

Amr El Beheiry has been imprisoned now since Feb 26 - that is six months already - and he is still in prison although he is as innocent as the other protesters that have been released!

SCAF - how long is this unbearable injustice supposed to continue?  

Retry Amr El Beheiry now!
Don't delay his appeal hearing any further
and set him free!

Amr El-Beheiry in better days: in freedom

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