Last updated: 23 July, 2012

Egypt releases detainees held by military

Egypt on Monday began to release detainees held by the military following a decree last week by President Mohamed Morsi, security officials told AFP.

“Prison authorities have begun releasing the detainees,” an official told AFP.

Morsi, who was sworn in last month as Egypt’s first elected civilian president, on Thursday issued an order to pardon 572 people convicted by military tribunals.

Their release comes on a public holiday marking the 1952 military coup d’etat that ultimately led to the overthrow of the monarchy in Egypt.

The Egyptian president had ordered the formation of a committee to review the cases of civilians tried by the military.

A total of 11,879 Egyptians have been detained by the military since last year’s uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak, according to figures issued by the committee. Of these, 9,714 have since been released.

Activists and international rights groups have repeatedly called for the end to military trials of civilians which they say do not meet the requirements of independence and impartiality.

“International law is crystal-clear on this: no civilian, regardless of the crime, should be tried by a military court,” Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said last week.

She urged Morsi to take a “principled human rights stance and pardon all civilians convicted by military tribunals.”

Morsi was sworn in on June 30, taking over from a military council which oversaw the transition from Mubarak’s rule.

But the president has been locked in a power struggle with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces which issued a constitutional declaration — that acts as a temporary charter– giving the military sweeping powers.