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Irwin Cotler

Cotler: Egypt's military in post-Mubarak era has put more civilians on sham trials than in all of Mubarak's rule

by Rhonda Spivak, reporting from Jerusalem, June 21, 2012

Jerusalem--The treatment the Egyptian military meeted out to Egyptian blogger, Maikel Nabil Sanad  who was charged with "insulting the Egyptian military" turned out to be a "a harbinger of things to come" in Egypt , says Sanad's international legal counsel Irwin Cotler.

Cotler, a former  Canadian Minister of Justice and Liberal MP, says that Sanad, a 26 year old secular democrat  who was  "-- one of the early liberal pro-democracy voices in Tahrir Square, inspiring the Egyptian-Arab spring, became the first political prisoner in the post-Mubarak era" for exercising his rights.

Cotler says, "Egypt's ruling military council has tried 12,000 people in the post-Mubarak era, more civilians than were tried in all of Mubarak's rule, and the tribunal currently boasts over a 93 per cent conviction rate (the remaining percentage can be accounted for by matters not yet having gone to trial)."

The repressive nature of the Egyptian military in Sanad's case and that of others was not sufficiantly appreciated, nor reported on by many Western analysts who believed at the outset of the Egyptian revolution that the  military would cede power to democratic civilian rule.

"Sanad initially affirmed the notion that 'the Egyptian army and the people are of one hand' -- that the two were working together in inspiring hope for freedom, democracy and human rights for Egypt.  But,when the military began to repress protesters, he wrote on his blog that the army and the people were 'no longer of one hand' and for this he was charged and sent to jail for "insulting the Egyptian military" in a show trial before a military tribunal -not a civil court," says Cotler.

Cotelr, who spoke to the Winnipeg Jewish Review while at a conference hosted by President of Israel Shimon Peres noted, "Sanad has been caught between the Islamists and the military, and the way he was treated by the military was a sign that the military was not going to give up its power to enable Egypt to transition into democracy."

"In Egyptian military tribunals not only is there no presumption of innocence ,there is indeed a presumption of guilt. As well, there is no right to a trial before an independent and impartial judiciary, as the Egyptian tribunal is an agent of the army. There is no right to rebut evidence, as no consideration of the evidence is permitted. There is no right of appeal, regardless of how manifest the errors of law may be, " Coter noted.

Cotler, who has acted as legal counsel for prisoners of conscience all around the world adds, "Nabil also had no right to independent counsel before the Egyptian military tribunals -- only the right  to a tribunal-appointed lawyer, whose previous action at a prior hearing was to call for Nabil's confinement in a psychiatric prison." The director released Nabil, "pronouncing him perfectly sane," according to Cotler.

"Several months ago, Egyptian authorities offered Nabil the use of a computer in his prison cell so he could post an apology online. Nabil refused, and was escorted back to prison," Cotler says

Cotler compares Sanad to Natan Sharansky, former Soviet Union prisoner of conscience who " like Sharansky would rather die than compromise his freedom."

Sanad, who went on a hunger strike for several months, put his life on the line.

"He has finally been released," Cotler says, and has returned to blogging. "He , like Sharansky-- like all the other political prisoners I've represented -- possesses that intangible moral courage and commitment to a cause that is unyielding.  His Egyptian supporters shout out with their cry "We are all Maikel Nabil" -- and that should be our battle cry here as well."

"He is  fearless," Coter says. But his case makes clar that  "the Egyptian military isn't going away anytime soon."

Nabil, who is not only pro-American but Pro-Israel ( a very unusual thing) wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal trying to explain to Americans why it is wrong to continue funding the Egyptian generals, unconditionally.

As Nabil indicated to the Washington Post,  in his view the military  has been  systematically whipping up hostility to Israel inside Egypt and using the treaty to “blackmail both Egyptians and U.S. taxpayers” by hinting that the loss of aid — or a democratic government’s control of the military — will mean its rupture.

As Nabil told the Washington Post  this past  April, the US  the administration’s conviction that Egypt was headed toward democracy is wrong and dangerous .  “[T]he same dictatorship of the last 60 years is still in power." Even if the generals hand over titular authority in July to an elected president, , “they will continue to be the most powerful force in Egypt. They control 40 percent of the economy. They have about one-third of the budget. They control the media and the judiciary. They have five intelligence agencies.”

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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