Egypt to stop military trials for civilians once Emergency Law is lifted

Egypt will halt military trials for civilians once the state of emergency has been lifted, Adel Morsy, the top official at Egypt's military judiciary, said on Monday.

Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) had vowed to abrogate the notorious Emergency Law once the country's security situation improves in a way that guarantees fair presidential elections.

Cancelling the Emergency Law was a key demand of anti-government protesters under Hosni Mubarak’s rule. The SCAF say they are considering cancelling it.

But human rights groups argue that actions speak louder than words and note that thousands of Egyptians have been put before military tribunals in the months since the January uprising. That is more, they say, than during the whole of Mubarak's 29-year rule.

The government counters that the military courts, which under Emergency Law are allowed to try civilians, are now being used only for common criminals who undermined national security during the political unrest.

Egypt's Emergency Law empowers the president or his representative to refer civilians suspected of felonies to a military court.

Morsy claimed on Monday that the military judiciary is currently handling cases of molestation, thuggery, and weapons possession, attributing the referral of such cases to military courts to the circumstances that followed the January uprising.

He said that the number of cases handled by military courts between 28 January and 28 August was 3863, involving 11,879 defendants, of whom 795 were acquitted.

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