Morsi orders release of 572 civilians

2012-07-20 15:29  Cairo - Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi on Thursday ordered the release of 572 people detained by the military, the official MENA news agency reported.

Morsi, who was sworn in last month as Egypt's first elected civilian president, "issued an order to pardon 572 people convicted by the military justice", MENA said.

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 of military trials of civilians.

"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 this week.

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

Morsi was sworn in on 30 June, 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.

"Military trials and arrests of civilians by the military have continued despite the 30 June handover to civilian authority," Human Rights Watch said.

The committee formed by Morsi does not however have the mandate to look into cases of military trials and arrests of civilians after the handover date.

Military trials have been criticised for not meeting the requirements of independence and impartiality.