Mounting criticism of the way the Egyptian Army is governing Egypt grew louder yesterday with press reports that one of the country's most prominent human rights lawyers has been arrested and will likely face a military trial.
Amidst a flurry of confusion about the fate of the well-known human rights crusader, The Egyptian Daily News quoted activist Mona Saif as saying that, "Law professor at the American University in Cairo Amr El-Shalakany was arrested two days ago and will be tried in a military court in Suez." Saif is a member of "No for Military Trials for Civilians" campaign, a grassroots campaign to eliminate such trials, which were allowed under the country's 30-year Emergency Laws.
She said El- Shalakany faces a possible sentence of 15 years in prison for "insulting the supreme military council" and causing riots and burning a police station.
Hailing from a family of prominent lawyers, El-Shalakany has not yet been officially charged.
Initial reports said he was arrested when he attempted to drive in a restricted area near Neama Bay in Sharm El-Shiekh, one of Egypt's top beach resorts in South Sinai. He allegedly exchanged verbal insults with the military officers who tried to stop him.
Saif told the newspaper that initially El-Shalakany was to be released Friday when the detaining officers suddenly decided to transfer him to Suez for a trial under martial law.
He faces a possible sentence of 15 years in prison for "insulting the supreme military council" and causing riots and burning a police station. El-Shalakany, who has not yet been officially charged, was arrested when he attempted to drive in a restricted area near Neama Bay in Sharm El-Shiekh, one of Egypt's top beach resorts in South Sinai, the newspaper reported.
"We assume that he would not set fire in a police station, and would calculate his actions in this context, as someone who is very aware of Egyptian Law," said Saif.
El-Shalakany's lawyer was not immediately available for comment.
Hailing from a family of prominent lawyers, El-Shalakany blogged for the NY Times during the revolution. His page at the American University says he's a member of the New York bar, who studied at Harvard and at Columbia, in the law, gender and sexuality program.
No sooner were "definitive" accounts of his arrest and upcoming military trial made public, the confusion grew thicker. He was not to be sent to Suez for a military trial. He was to be sent to a civilian court. And, later, he was to be freed altogether.
In post-Mubarak Egypt, trying to run rumors to the ground is like playing Wack-a-Mole. That's what a lot of very dedicated people are trying to as we write, but as of this moment in time, the whereabouts of Mr. El-Shalakany are a mystery.
And whether he's found or not, whether he's charged or not, the point doesn't change. Here it is:
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has been the sole executive power in Egypt since Mubarak resigned on 11 February, and their position of authority is expected to last at least another nine months, until the next presidential elections. To date, however, there has been little effort exerted to hold the military accountable for its actions.
The military is widely credited with securing the fall of the Mubarak regime by placing pressure on the president to step down. But as Egypt enters its tenth week of martial law, activists and analysts are questioning the ruling military council's decision-making process and challenging the military on frequent allegations of human rights abuses.
The Egyptian public's unwavering support for the military is particularly problematic. In the early days of the Tahrir Square revolution, the Army won the applause of the anti-government protesters by using its tanks to keep pro-Mubarak forces from attacking demonstrators. Later, the Army was seen clearly to take the side of the anti-government protesters.
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