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Military Court adjourns blogger's trial to March 7
Published in Daily News Egypt on 02 - 03 - 2010

CAIRO: The Military Court on Tuesday adjourned blogger Ahmed Mostafa's trial to March 7 upon the request of the defense team, which demanded more time to examine the files.
The defense team convinced the Court to adjourn the case, Hamdy El-Asyouty, head of the Legal Support Unit at the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), told Daily News Egypt.
In addition to having permission to only examine the case document inside the courtroom, El-Asyouty explained, the defense team was subjected to a scrutinized search before entering the court.
"According to the charges facing the blogger, he could be sentenced to up to three years in prison, in addition to a fine, the lawyer added.
Mostafa, a 20-year-old engineering student at Kafr El-Sheikh University, is facing three charges, including spreading false information about a military institution through his blog, offending the Egyptian Armed Forces, and working to shake people's confidence in the Armed Forces.
In a blog post published February 2009, Mostafa criticized 'favoritism' at the Military Academy.
ANHRI had described the charges brought against Mostafa as the "fastest of their kind. On Feb. 25, 2010, Mostafa went to the Military Prosecution Office in Kafr El-Sheikh, upon their request, to find that the Military Academy had filed an official complaint accusing him of spreading false information about it in a blog post published on Feb. 19, 2009.
The investigation continued on Sunday, while Mostafa was in detention, and the case was referred to Military Court on Monday.
International and local rights groups have called upon the Egyptian government to release Mostafa.
"We demand that the Egyptian government stop the seemingly endless harassment of independent journalists and bloggers under the guise of the Emergency Law, Mohamed Abdel Dayem, from the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a statement.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Human Rights Watch (HRW) and ANHRI made similar demands in statements released on Monday and Tuesday.
Criticism was directed against Egypt's judicial system under the Emergency Law. Several international organizations called upon the Egyptian government to release Mostafa, tried in front of a military court since Monday.
Egypt's Emergency Law, into force since 1981, enables the executive forces to monitor newspapers and other publications, to detain suspect civilians for an indefinite period and to refer them to a military court. The law can be invoked in any cases involving potential threats to national security or terrorism.
"These extraordinary judicial proceedings are designed to intimidate anyone who dares to criticize the army. This is further proof of the government's inability to tolerate sensitive subjects being tackled by bloggers, RSF declared.
The referral of detained bloggers and journalists to military courts is considered by many as an inappropriate use of the Emergency Law. ANHRI declared: "It seems that the Egyptian government has decided to drive the war against bloggers, up to the climax of unfair military trials.
"We are heading towards a military trial of a young civilian because of an article he wrote on his blog a year ago, ANHRI added.
Responding to the impossibility of appealing a military court's decision, Mohamed Mahmoud, Mostafa's lawyer, said that "only President Hosni Mubarak can overturn rulings handed down by a military court.
Further more, the restrictions imposed on Mostafa's lawyers' access to investigation documents violate the International Covenant on civil and political rights which states that "everyone shall have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defense.
Mostafa is the most recent civilian defendant in front of a military court, but the problems raised by his case are well-known to Egypt and the international human rights community. In 2009, Martin Scheinin, UN Rapporteur on the protection of human rights, reiterated that in Egypt "the trial of civilian suspects in military courts raises concerns about the impartial and independent administration of justice.
HRW accused the Egyptian government of being two-faced in its approach to human rights. "The Egyptian government says one thing in Geneva and then immediately makes a mockery of the Human Rights Council's review process, Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said, adding that "Instead of looking into his accusations, the government is trying to silence him.


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