News / Middle East

US Concerned by Military Prosecution of Egyptian Activists

Protester in Cairo's Tahrir Square, Jul 22, 2011
Protester in Cairo's Tahrir Square, Jul 22, 2011
TEXT SIZE - +

The United States Wednesday joined human rights groups in expressing concern about moves by Egyptian authorities to prosecute political activists for insulting the military. A founding member of Egypt’s April 6th Youth Movement, Asmaa Mahfouz, is among those facing charges.

The State Department says U.S. officials have raised concerns directly with Cairo over the Asmaa Mahfouz case and other prosecutions that human rights groups say reflect stepped-up efforts by Egypt’s interim authorities to silence critics.

The 26-year-old Mahfouz, whose April 6th Youth Movement was one of the main organizing forces behind Egypt’s mass uprising earlier this year, faces  charges of incitement and insulting the military after posts on the social website Twitter warning that the clampdown on dissent could provoke violence.

She is free after posting a bail of more than $3,000 but will face a military trial at a yet-to-be-determined date.

State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland says the United States believes all individuals should be allowed to peacefully exercise their right to freedom of expression, and that U.S. officials are concerned by the actions against Mahfouz and others being summoned to appear before  military courts.

“We strongly support a democratic transition in Egypt. We view that transition as both positive and necessary and real democratic change in Egypt will serve the long-term interests of Egypt of the region and our relationship. Democracy is not only about elections. It's also about freedom of speech, it's about freedom of assembly, it's about respect for the rights of minorities, and about strong and accountable institutions," she said.

In the Twitter comments that offended authorities, Mahfouz said that if the Egyptian justice system does not deliver real rights, no one should be surprised if armed groups emerge and stage assassinations.

Denying incitement, she says she was only warning the country’s ruling military council that the absence of justice will bring chaos.

Amnesty International called on Cairo authorities to immediately drop the charges against Mahfouz, saying  her comments do not represent a call to violence and that trying civilians in a military court is “deeply problematic.”

Human Rights Watch says the prosecution of Mahfouz is a “serious escalation” of efforts by Egyptian military leaders to silence critical voices.

The group’s Washington-based deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, Joe Stork, says the case does not mean Egypt’s revolution has gone completely off the tracks, but that some officials still cling to the methods of the Hosni Mubarak era.

“There are many moving parts here. This is a sign that there are still people very much in power in Egypt who number one, feel threatened by the kind of changes that are being demanded on the street. And number two, are willing to use the same old laws, the same bad laws of the Mubarak era, to suppress speech, to suppress peaceful protests," he said.

Stork says the Mahfouz case is the just the latest in a “whole series” of prosecutions by the Egyptian military, which he said is increasingly setting narrower limits on what it will permit.

Human Rights Watch says military courts are currently trying groups of protestors arrested since June in Cairo and Alexandria for alleged offenses including chanting “offensive slogans” about the country’s de-facto ruler, Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi.

The New York-based group says military courts have sentenced at least 10,000 civilians this year in unfair proceedings and that all should be re-tried in regular civilian courts.

The country’s ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces denies limiting freedom of expression but says it has moved against those who “cross the limits” of free speech to promote violence and defame the military.

You May Like

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid