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As Prominent Blogger and Activist Detained in Egypt, Amnesty International Calls for Independent Investigation of Maspero Protests

WASHINGTON - The authorities must stop trying civilians before unfair military courts, Amnesty International said today, after a prominent Egyptian blogger and activist was detained.

Alaa Abdel Fattah appeared before military prosecutors on Sunday, but refused to answer questions because of his opposition to civilians being tried before military courts.

The prosecution ordered his detention for 15 days pending further investigation. Activist Bahaa Saber, who was interrogated at the same time, also refused to be questioned and was released on bail.

Both men criticized the fact that the military is in charge of investigating the killing of at least 27 people on October 9, when troops and riot police violently dispersed protests around the state television building, known as Maspero. The demonstrations were sparked by attacks on Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority.

"The Egyptian military was part of the violence which occurred during the Maspero protests and is also leading the investigation into the bloodshed," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa. "This is totally unacceptable and raises serious and fundamental questions about the inquiry’s independence and impartiality."

"Egypt’s military authorities must allow an independent investigation into these killings if they are serious about bringing those responsible to justice," said Luther.

Alaa Abdel Fattah and Bahaa Saber were charged with inciting violence against the armed forces and assaulting military personnel during the October 9 protests. Alaa Abdel Fattah faces additional charges of stealing weaponry.

At least 28 other civilians are believed to have been detained and charged in connection with the demonstrations. More are reportedly wanted for questioning by military prosecutors.

"Military courts should never be used to investigate or try civilians," said Luther. "Such courts are fundamentally unfair, as they deprive defendants of basic fair trial guarantees."

In Egypt, military courts effectively deny defendants the right to appeal, by limiting appeals to legal points without reviewing the facts and evidence of the case.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has yet to hold the security forces to account for the excessive use of force used against the Maspero protesters. Instead, they have continued to insist that the demonstrators were responsible for inciting the violence and have cracked down on those criticizing the way they handled the demonstrations.


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