Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] called Monday for Egypt to release an Egyptian journalist [AI report] facing a military trial in the country. Mohamed Sabry, a journalist and blogger, was arrested Friday by the country's military in the city of Rafah near the Egyptian-Gaza border. Sabry has been charged with trespassing and filming in a prohibited military zone. Under Article 198 of Egypt's new constitution [text, in English], the trial of civilians in military courts is allowed when the crime is one that "harm(s) the Armed Forces." AI Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme Hassiba Hadi Sahraoui voiced grave concern over trials of civilians in military courts, stating
Military trials for civilians are fundamentally unfair and it is time for the Egyptian authorities to end them. ... It is particularly worrying that a journalist seems to be facing an unfair trial by military court simply for carrying out his work. The charges against Mohamed Sabry must be dropped immediately.Sabry is believed to be the first civilian to face a military trial in the country since in the adoption of the new constitution. He could face up to a year in jail and a fine. AI stated in its report that more than 12,000 civilians were tried unfairly by military courts when the Egyptian army ruled the country from February 2011 to June 2012.
Egypt's new constitution has been surrounded by controversy and criticized since it was drafted. After it was approved by referendum in December, a coalition of Egyptian rights group called for a redo, alleging widespread irregularities [JURIST report] in voting procedures. Egyptian press and commentators were divided over its approval [BBC report], as some declared the results to be "fake" [BBC report]. Supporters of the document from the Muslim Brotherhood, however, claimed its approval was the valid choice of the people. It was signed into law by President President Mohammed Morsi [BBC backgrounder] weeks after its approval. Before it was approved, the UN Working Group on discrimination against women [official website] expressed grave concern [JURIST report] over its contents, noting that no women were involved in drafting the document and that their rights were "grossly under-represented." In November, AI also voiced concern that the approved constitution contains language that "ignores the rights of women, restricts freedom of expression in the name of protecting religion, and allows for the military trial of civilians."