The families of 26 workers of the Alexandria Shipyard Company who were imprisoned on 25 May on charges of protesting say they have been threatened by military officials to not talk about the case with the media or human rights organisations, as 13 workers are still detained.
“The families were threatened that their relatives will be assaulted or further detained if they go public with the case. Officials told the families that they control the possibility of detention renewal, appeals, and the trial,” lawyer Susan Nada said in a press conference on Monday in the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights.
Several labour groups, parties, and political movements read a solidarity statement in support of the workers. The groups demanded the end of the trial, arguing that the workers’ demands are legitimate, which include being paid their scheduled bonuses and developing the system for promotions in order to avoid favoritism.
The statement also vowed to continue collecting signatures showing solidarity, as well as initiating an online campaign next Thursday to write about the case and about the phenomenon of putting civilians in military courts.
On Monday, the Alexandria Military Court postponed the trial of the 13 workers to next Saturday.
Nada, who is following up on the case along with lawyer Mohamed Awad, said the next session will witness the testimony of the military intelligence officer who is assigned to the company.
She added that the 13 workers are jailed in different police stations and are subjected to several violations, as some of them reported that they had been assaulted. However, the prosecution refused to acknowledge the assault in the case papers.
During the conference, Lawyer Osama Al-Mahdi, member of the No to Military Trials group, said that the rate of putting civilians in military courts has been increasing since the 25 January Revolution, and that the military has been increasing its influence in the Egyptian society.
He added that a decree by interim president Adly Mansour extended the rate of this phenomenon as it assigned several government buildings to be secured by the military. “For example, universities, bureaucratic buildings, and water plants are considered military zones, where civilians are punished by military tribunals,” said Al-Mahdi.
“Military trials have been propagated in the media as the ultimate application of law which will end violence. However, we can call it ‘swift injustice’ due to the intimidation that the lawyers and judges face in the sessions,” Al-Mahdi said, explaining that the judges in these courts are officers who are still subjected to a chain of command which they cannot oppose.
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.