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Egyptian army summons journalists to court

posted 31 May 2011, 07:01 by Mpelembe   [ updated 31 May 2011, 07:04 ]

Egyptian blogger and democracy activist Hossam El-Hamalawy says he has been summoned for questioning by the army after he accused a military official of instigating abuses against civilians.

CAIRO, EGYPT (MAY 31, 2011)  REUTERS - Several Egyptian journalists summoned for questioning by military prosecutors after criticizing alleged abuses by the military were released on Tuesday (May 31) without charge.

Dozens of protesters gathered outside of the military prosecutor's office in the Nasser City neighborhood of Cairo, where the three journalists were due to appear, to voice their anger over what they called a worrying tendency by the military to target its critics and to put civilians in front of military courts.

Egyptian blogger and democracy activist Hossam El-Hamalawy said he had been summoned for questioning by the army after he accused a military official of instigating abuses against civilians.

He was called in for questioning along with Reem Maged, the anchor of the TV show he appeared on, Baladna (Our Country). Writer and former policeman Nabil Sharaf el Din was also questioned at the same time over an article he wrote on a website accusing the military of having secret deals with Egypt's famous Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood.

As he arrived at the court El-Hamalawy again questioned the conduct of the military and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces that in effect rules Egypt in the wake of the revolution that toppled longtime President Hosni Mubarak.

"The military council claims that they are protecting the revolution, and I don't understand how they can be protecting the revolution when all of these violations are taking place and when we see the aggressive military trials that are taking place here against civilians. And at the same time the summoning of journalists who speak about these issues. This is something that is not acceptable at all. And I think that the 'taboo', or red lines that were in place before with regards to [former president] Hosni Mubarak, are still in place but they apply to the Military Council," he said.

Hamalawy's friends set up a Facebook page showing excerpts of the satellite talk show in which he named a senior officer as responsible for violations committed by military police.

"Shame on the armed forces that after all of these months of violations, and after there have been so many videos documenting them, and all the protests from families whose relatives are in military tribunals, that they should be waiting for me or Reem [Maged] to come here and tell him what has been taking place," said Hamalawy.

Journalist Sharaf El-Din said that he was honored to be standing up for freedom of expression.

"First of all I feel as if today I am a groom, a groom for the freedom of Egypt. Because violating freedom of expression in this way has never happened, even during the previous era. It did not happen at all, and you as a professional journalist know that there were no journalists or reporters referred to military courts or the military judicial authority because they spoke about issues that the decision makers did not like," he said.

Activist Lilyan Wagdi Kamal, who started a Facebook page supporting El-Hamalawy and Maged which attracted more than 5,000 supporters, said the military's actions were worrying for those who hoped the country was moving in a new direction.

"It could be one of two things - either the military is worried and is trying to hide something, or they are dealing with us with the mentality of a nanny, in that we cannot say anything without checking with them first. In both cases it is unacceptable. We undertook this revolution so that if I see something I do not like, I can write about it and not be summoned before the military to explain why I wrote what I did," she said.

The Egyptian army took power in Egypt after an uprising toppled President Hosni Mubarak on February 11.

It won broad popular support for ensuring order and a smooth transition to an interim government but has faced criticism from human rights groups after trying hundreds of civilians in military courts.

Amnesty International has said many protesters arrested during and since the 18-day uprising against Mubarak reported abuse by soldiers and is calling for an official investigation.