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

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

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms 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.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid