Aswat Masriya (Cairo)

9 January 2013

Egypt: NGOs Demand Immediate Release of Journalist

Several Egyptian human rights groups condemned on Wednesday the military trial of journalist Mohamed Sabri.

The rights groups asked in a joint statement for Sabri's immediate release, demanding that all charges against him be dropped.

Sabri was arrested on Friday while working on an investigative journalistic report on the decision to ban private ownership of land near the border strip in Sinai.

He was referred to the North Sinai Military Prosecution for questioning, which subsequently referred him to a military court.

Sabri is scheduled to appear for trial on Wednesday, for charges of "being present in a restricted military area without permission and taking photographs."

"Sabri's arrest and his referral to a military trial clearly confirm concerns about the flawed formulation of Article 198 of the new constitution," said the statement signed by different non-governmental organizations.

The statement explained further that the constitution explicitly permits the referral of civilians to military trials in crimes "that harm the armed forces."

Meanwhile, activists and journalists staged a protest on Tuesday in front of the Journalists' Syndicate to denounce the military trial of Sabri and other civilians.

Mona Seif, an activist of the 'No to Military Trials' group, told Aswat Masriya that she believed that Sabri was undergoing military trial because of his previous journalistic reports in Sinai, pointing that "his trial is a warning message to all activists."

Seif added that Sabri also belongs to the 'No to Military Trials' group, in addition to being a prominent activist since the beginning of the revolution.

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