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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Christmas Gains Popularity in Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid