Lawyer: At least 2 dozen minors among those sentenced in military case last week

Approximately 26 of the 156 defendants sentenced to prison by a military court last week were minors at their time of their arrest in 2014, lawyer Ahmed Saad told Mada Masr.

According to Saad, the defendants, who were handed three and five year sentences in last Tuesday’s ruling, were between 14 and 17 at the time of their arrest.

While the child law, which sets out the conditions for the detention of minors, prohibits the arrest of anyone under 15 years old, a loophole in the law has landed countless minors in detention and standing before military and criminal courts.

The loophole allows the prosecution to transfer juveniles to criminal courts if at least one person over 18 years old participated in the charge under investigation.

Nearly 3,200 minors, all under 18, have been imprisoned by Egyptian authorities since former President Mohamed Morsi was ousted on June 30, 2013. All have been imprisoned with adults, and some have been subjected to torture, according to a report published by the Egyptian Coordination of Rights and Freedoms in August 2015.

The Public Prosecution referred the 156 defendants sentenced in Case 2/2016 on Tuesday to military trial on April 25, 2015. They were accused of “membership in an illegal organization whose purpose is to call for disobedience of the provisions of the Constitution, preventing state institutions and public authorities  from performing their duties, attacking personal freedoms and human rights of citizens enshrined in the Constitution, assaulting police and Armed Forces personnel and their facilities, and endangering the safety and security of society, using terrorism to commit these crimes.”

Defendants also faced charges tied to the “vandalism of the Alexandria Security Directorate,” the “sabotage of a public building by planting and detonating an explosive device inside of it, which resulted in damages” and the “sabotage of other  government facilities and property at a New Cairo police checkpoint and the Zahraa police checkpoint in Nasr City.”

Handing down its decision last Tuesday, the Northern Military Criminal Court sentenced 58 people to life in prison, 19 to 15 years, 35 to five years and 18 to three years in prison, Khaled al-Masry, another member of the defense team, told Mada Masr. He added that only 61 of the defendants were present before the court for the ruling, and that 91 defendants were sentenced in absentia.

The court acquitted 24 people of one charge of “attacking the police and Armed Forces and their facilities,” but ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to try them for the other charges leveled against them, which included “membership in an illegal organization,” Masry told Mada Masr.

He explained that cases for these defendants would be sent back to the Supreme State Security Prosecution for reassessment.

For over four months in 2017,  Mada Masr followed 35 cases of minors who have appeared before criminal and military courts, and met over 10 minors who have finished serving criminal sentences of between one to three years in adult prisons. A report published in December of that year outlines the laws under which these minors were detained and the abuses they faced in prison.

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