The Egyptian Dockers Federation condemned on Friday the military prosecution’s decision to renew the detention of 13 workers of the Alexandria Shipyard Company who were jailed on 25 May on charges of protesting and inciting their colleagues to strike.
The independent federation said that it previously called upon President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and Minister of Defence Colonel General Sedki Sobhi to intervene and stop the military trials. “The opposite took place as their detention was renewed three times,” they said.
The workers are being investigated by the military prosecution as the Alexandria Shipyard Company falls under the supervision and administration of the Ministry of Defence and Military Production as of 2007. The company stands as one of the 1960s’ main industrial projects in Alexandria in the maritime field. The company is one of the several economic projects that are controlled by the Egyptian Armed Forces. The complex contains 2,500 civilian workers.
No Military Trials for Civilians, a rights group against sending civilians to military tribunals, condemned the workers’ referral to the military prosecution. In a statement, the group added that the demands of the workers are legitimate. “Even if the workers are in a company run by the military, they are still civilians who should have the privilege of a fair trial.”
“No one is safe from the oppression of military courts,” the group added.
The Dockers Federation added: “oppressing workers, who are demanding their rights, in military court doesn’t add to the benefit of Egypt, but adds to the division and oppression among workers.”
The referral of the workers sparked anger in labour communities, raising the issue of civilian workers’ status in military factories.
Parliament member Haitham El-Hariri said Friday on his social media page, “How can we put workers in military courts after the 25 January and 30 June revolutions?”
Another 13 workers received arrest warrants but were not apprehended.
From 22 to 23 May, a group of 26 workers arranged an open sit-in hoping that the company’s leaders would act in response to certain demands that they had previously mentioned with the company administration that did not receive attention.
As the strike escalated, workers were barred from entering their place of work and military units were deployed.
Martial law stipulates that if civilians breach a law inside a military zone, they can be referred to military court.
In August 2014, a civilian was referred to military prosecution after skirmishes with workers at a military-run gas station on the Suez Road. During the incident, the family of the civilian told Daily News Egypt that the civilian police were summoned, but the military personnel would not let them inside the gas station under the pretext that it is a military zone.
Article 204 of the Constitution bans military trials for civilians “except in cases which represent a direct assault on armed forces institutions, their camps or anything that falls under their authority, alongside assaults on military or border zones, and military institutions, vehicles, weapons, ammunition, documents, secrets, public funds, or factories”.
The article was widely criticised by human rights organisations. The No Military Trials for Civilians group especially campaigned against the article during the drafting of the Constitution and called for its revocation.