News / Middle East

'Eye Sniper,' Girl Protesters: Egypt's Tale of Two Trials

A protester opposed tot the Egyptian army and government shouts slogans, holds a banner during a demonstration against the army and government at Abdeen square in downtown Cairo, Nov. 18, 2013.
A protester opposed tot the Egyptian army and government shouts slogans, holds a banner during a demonstration against the army and government at Abdeen square in downtown Cairo, Nov. 18, 2013.
Reuters
— Two high-profile Egyptian trials, both arising from years of turbulent protests, have delivered sharply contrasting sentences in the space of just a few months.
 
In March, a policeman was convicted of shooting at protesters, deliberately aiming at their eyes, during demonstrations in November 2011. The man dubbed the 'eye sniper' was sentenced to three years in prison.
 
This week, 21 women and teenage girls were found guilty of obstructing traffic during a pro-Islamist protest last month. The 14 women were imprisoned for 11 years, while the seven under the age of 18 were sent to juvenile prison.
 
Egyptian women supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi stand inside the defendants' cage in a courtroom in Alexandria, Egypt, Nov. 27, 2013.Egyptian women supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi stand inside the defendants' cage in a courtroom in Alexandria, Egypt, Nov. 27, 2013.
x
Egyptian women supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi stand inside the defendants' cage in a courtroom in Alexandria, Egypt, Nov. 27, 2013.
Egyptian women supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi stand inside the defendants' cage in a courtroom in Alexandria, Egypt, Nov. 27, 2013.
The verdicts stunned the opposition and rights campaigners, even by the standards of a crackdown in which security forces have killed hundreds of Islamists and arrested thousands since the army overthrew President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July.
 
“The ruling was shocking. We could not believe that Egypt would lock up its girls with the excuse that they are a threat to security,” said Ramadan Abdel Hamid, whose 15-year-old daughter Rawda and wife Salwa were among those sentenced.
 
“Is this what is going to calm Egypt?”
 
As army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi implements a promised roadmap towards elections, the United States is watching closely and has repeatedly urged the interim government to treat its opponents with restraint.
 
Since Morsi's fall, it has frozen some military aid to Cairo. The European Union has been encouraging political reconciliation in a bid to stabilize Egypt, which has a peace treaty with Israel and controls the strategic Suez Canal.
 
Pardon sought
 
The security forces have been lionized by state and private media which denounce the Brotherhood as terrorists. But convicting women and girls who back Morsi has raised the campaign to a new level that could risk provoking a backlash.
 
So far there have been no street protests against the sentences, but criticism has appeared on social media.
 
Leftist leader Hamdeen Sabahi called for a presidential pardon, even though he is a fierce opponent of the Brotherhood.
 
The sentences could give the unpopular Brotherhood some political ammunition as it tries to recover from the crackdown that has all but decimated the movement.
 
In a statement, an alliance of pro-Brotherhood parties said: “The judiciary rules against the girls of Alexandria within days and goes at the speed of a tortoise in the trial of Mubarak and his gang.”
 
It said the verdict “proved that the independence of the judiciary has passed away”.
 
Delicate issue
 
Egyptian protesters chant slogans in Talaat Harb Square in Cairo, Egypt, against the issuance of a new law regulating demonstrations, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013.Egyptian protesters chant slogans in Talaat Harb Square in Cairo, Egypt, against the issuance of a new law regulating demonstrations, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013.
x
Egyptian protesters chant slogans in Talaat Harb Square in Cairo, Egypt, against the issuance of a new law regulating demonstrations, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013.
Egyptian protesters chant slogans in Talaat Harb Square in Cairo, Egypt, against the issuance of a new law regulating demonstrations, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013.
Street protests are a highly sensitive issue in a country where people power has led to the downfall of two presidents in less than three years, beginning with veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011. The sentencing of the women and girls coincided with tensions over a law passed on Sunday that tightly restricts demonstrations.
 
While many Egyptians support Sisi and his roadmap, even non-Islamists are becoming more critical of the military, suggesting the authorities may have to tread more cautiously.
 
“I was surprised by how quickly this case was decided,” said Anwar El Sadat, a former member of the People's Assembly and chairman of its Human Rights Committee. “I was hoping they would show some mercy, especially because it's women and girls.”
 
Tamara Alrifai of U.S.-based Human Rights Watch described the case as “shocking”.
 
“The seven girls are underage and considered children,” she said. “It is part of a wider campaign to put a halt to protests. People seized the right to protest in 2011 and they are trying to take it away from them.”
 
Relatives of the women and girls have condemned the court ruling, but said it would strengthen their resolve against what they call the military coup to remove Morsi.
 
Sohanda Abdel Rahman, 13, said she could not believe her mother was sentenced to 11 years in jail.
 
“This is an oppressive and political sentencing,” she said after visiting her in prison. “But we began the path and know what will happen to us and we will not retreat.”

You May Like

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid