• 19:50
  • Sunday ,13 March 2011

Rights groups accuse military police of torturing, detaining activists

By-Marwa Al-A’sar-Daily News Egypt

Home News


Sunday ,13 March 2011

Rights groups accuse military police of torturing, detaining activists

 CAIRO: A number of human rights groups accused the military police of torturing as well as arbitrarily detaining protesters and activists over the past two weeks.

Over 150 people who participated in the January 25 Revolution were subject to questioning by the military prosecution; some were then referred to a military court.
Director of Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) Gamal Eid slammed the army for “lacking transparency” in dealing with lawyers.
“The army never responded to lawyers who attempted to reach the detainees,” Eid, also a lawyer, told Daily News Egypt.
“Several lawyers were unable to attend the interrogation of activists who spent their time between military prison and the prosecution office,” Eid added.
Activist Mona Seif told Daily News Egypt that repeated attempts to communicate with the army to get details on the whereabouts and the number of detainees were in vain.
“The problem is that the army is not cooperative at all,” Seif said.
“The estimated number we have so far based on the accounts of protesters who were detained then released is over 170, including 17 women. Most of them are held in Hikestep army camp,” she added.
On Tuesday, the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) filed a lawsuit against the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and the prime minister demanding an end to the prosecution of civilians in military courts.
A day later, the army forcibly dispersed a sit-in in Tahrir Square, arresting and allegedly torturing dozens of protesters after they were attacked by other protesters opposed to the continued Tahrir sit-in. The attackers were armed with knives and machetes and wanted to evacuate the square.
Several activists reported being dragged inside the Egyptian Museum at the square where army soldiers tormented them. Some were released immediately, while others were interrogated by the military prosecution on accusations of thuggery.
Journalist Rasha Azab was among the protesters arrested and allegedly tortured on March 9.
“I was in Tahrir Square when army soldiers started to hit me and slapped me on the face,” Azab told DNE. “When I said that I was a journalist, they hit me even more,” she added.
Azab said that she was taken to the museum where they tied her to a pillar for about five hours while soldiers continued to violently beat her.
Afterwards, she and five other journalists were taken to the military prosecutor who ordered their release.
“The army seems to be have turned against the revolution and its principles, acting [on behalf of] State Security,” Azab claimed.
Azab, with the help of a number of human rights lawyers, filed a complaint before the prosecutor general against the military.
Amnesty International condemned “the Egyptian army's heavy-handed actions to clear Cairo's Tahrir…of protesters, after soldiers beat demonstrators and made scores of arrests.”
According to witness testimonies gathered by Amnesty International, the army entered Tahrir Square on the afternoon of March 9 and violently dispersed a gathering of around 1,000 people, beating demonstrators, dismantling their tents and breaking up an informal medical clinic.
Journalists attempting to record events had the memory cards of their cameras wiped, the statement said.
"One protester who told us he was arrested with over 100 others witnessed people being beaten in detention," said Hassiba Hadj-Sahraoui, Amnesty International's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.
The human rights watchdog called for immediately and unconditionally releasing all those arrested during the peaceful protest.
Seif said that witnesses told her on March 9 that army soldiers randomly arrested protesters. She added that other witnesses said that some of the Tahrir Square protesters reported activists to the army.
Actor Ali Sobhi was among those arrested on that day. According to Ahram Online, Sobhi was in Tahrir when armed civilians attacked the square followed by the military. He was arrested outside the museum when he tried to object to the arrests of others.
Labeled “thug” by state TV, Sobhy’s fate is yet to be determined by the military prosecution.
Activist Ramy Essam, dubbed “the revolution singer,” was also allegedly tortured by the army before being released.
In his testimony published by Seif on the social networking website Facebook and YouTube, Essam alleged that both the army and thugs dispersed and beat up protesters together. Then the army started to arrest protesters, he said.
“A number of soldiers took me to the Egyptian Museum where…officers tied me up and kept kicking me all over my body and face. Then they hit me with sticks, skewers, iron pipes, wires and hoses on my legs and back,” he said.
Essam added that he was struck with an electric prod on different parts of his body, spat on and had his hair cut with broken glass.
A video uploaded on YouTube showed marks of torture on Essam’s body.
Essam was often seen during protests in Tahrir Square that led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak singing and playing the guitar. He set music to many of the slogans chanted by the millions of pro-democracy protesters.
The validity of these claims and videos could not be independently verified by Daily News Egypt at time of press.
The army, which through its Facebook page had previously apologized for forcibly dispersing protesters from the square and in front of the parliament building on Feb. 26, has not commented on the above accounts of torture.
In the early hours of Feb. 26, army soldiers and military police chased demonstrators in Tahrir and near the parliament building using cattle prods, beating and arresting a number of activists.
A few hours later, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces issued an apology on its Facebook page, saying that the clashes were “unintentional.”
In a second statement, the council said it ordered the release of all protesters arrested the night before.
However, one protester, Amr El-Behairy, was sentenced two days later by a military court to five years in prison, causing an outcry from activists, protesters and a few celebrities.
"El-Behairy was first charged with possessing a weapon, and then the military police modified the charge to attacking a military officer," human rights activists and lawyer Gamal Eid previously told DNE.
Earlier on Sunday, the army arrested 27 protesters following clashes with thugs outside the State Security building in Lazoughly near downtown Cairo. They were interrogated by the military prosecution and released one day later.