From Salon, some grim stories of a post-Mubarak Egypt that's still far from free:
like hundreds of thousands of Egyptians, [Amr] El-Beheiry found himself swept up in the momentum of history and he took to the streets to join the protests that began January 25, 2011 and 18 days later resulted in the downfall of Mubarak. El-Beheiry continued to challenge authority — newly empowered, his family says, by the idea of a better future. On Feb. 25, he was arrested along with dozens of other protesters in front of the building where Egyptian cabinet meets.
El-Beheiry has the unfortunate distinction of being among the very first civilians arrested under the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the governing body made up of generals that was given executive authority in Egypt during the transition to a newly elected government.
As a result, he was among the first of some 12,000 civilians to be brought before a military tribunal under the country’s so-called “Emergency Laws.” This process routinely suspends a civilian’s right to a fair trial and human rights activists fear it is an old ploy of the Mubarak regime which is once again being used to crush dissent. El-Beheiry has been badly beaten in prison, held incommunicado and sentenced to five years on what his family and lawyers say are trumped-up charges of breaking curfew and assaulting a soldier.
He was sentenced at a court hearing that was never announced to the family and which not even his lawyers were permitted to attend.
Mubarak used the “Emergency Laws” for decades to circumvent the civilian justice system and was criticized by international human rights groups for years for doing so. But in three decades of Mubarak’s autocratic rule, there were only 2,000 cases of civilians being tried by military courts. In just ten months of SCAF taking control of the country, there have been six times that many.
Human Rights Watch released a report this week to mark the anniversary of the “January 25 Revolution” in Egypt that highlighted SCAF’s use of these “Emergency Laws” and to call for the newly elected parliament to make it a legislative priority do away with this web of laws that curb free expression, limit the right to assembly and restrict just about any form of opposition to the ruling government. Egypt’s newly elected lower house of parliament, known as the People’s Assembly, will sit for the first time Monday.
In the 46-page report titled “The Road Ahead: A Human Rights Agenda for Egypt’s New Parliament,” Human Rights Watch sets out nine areas of Egyptian law that most need reform if the law is “to become an instrument that protects Egyptians’ rights rather than represses them.”
Amid the call for a change in Egypt’s laws to end the practice of military trials, El Beheiry’s case has become a cause célèbre, launching a popular, national movement known as “No Military Trials.” Bumper stickers and street graffiti supporting the movement can be seen everywhere.