CAIRO — The defendants faced a number of major charges, including attempting a military coup, terrorism and joining the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as attempting to forcibly occupy public institutions.
In the absence of any official or published information about the investigations, it is not possible to confirm or deny the accuracy of the charges leveled against the defendants. The confirmation or the denial of the charges is also made impossible given the refusal of lawyers to comment on the evidence presented by the military prosecution and Military Intelligence against their clients, in the hope that the sentences may later be reduced.
Relatives of the defendants say that those who were tried in absentia received sentences of life imprisonment. Of those that were present in court, four defendants also received a life sentence, with 10 receiving 15 years imprisonment and the remaining seven sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Mada Masr has conducted interviews with relatives of several defendants about the conditions in which their relatives were arrested and their treatment in detention (they spoke on condition of anonymity and nondisclosure of the nature of their relation to the defendants). Together with the indictment sheet, Mada Masr has uncovered some of the case details, which have received no media attention, save for some Brotherhood-affiliated news outlets and a short BBC Arabic story citing "military sources" on Aug. 16, 2015, the day the verdict was issued.
Generals and colonels
The Armed Forces spokesperson could not be reached by for comment on the issue, despite repeated attempts. Neither the Ministry of Defense nor its Military Justice Authority has issued any statements regarding the case.
According to the indictment order in case number 3/2015 by the military public prosecutor, four of the defendants were retired officers who were sentenced in absentia, given that they fled the country. One of them was a colonel. The remaining 22 defendants included two retired army officers, one of them a brigadier general, and 20 who were still serving in the Armed Forces at the time of arrest, including a brigadier general and two colonels.
One of the defendants was Major Momen Mohamed Saeed Abdel Aty, brother of General Ragai Saeed, former deputy commander of the Central Military Zone. Abdel Aty's name first appeared in the summer of 2013, when he was in charge of securing the Mohandiseen neighborhood west of Cairo. He appeared in a YouTube video reprimanding the police for firing tear gas at a demonstration supporting ousted President Mohamed Morsi on Aug. 30, 2013. Sources told Mada Masr that Sad had retired a few weeks after officers accused in the case were arrested, though that information could not be independently verified.
In addition to the 26 officers, the indictment order included two Muslim Brotherhood leaders who received life sentences in absentia.
According to the' families of the military officers, all of the accused were summoned or arrested in April 2015. The relatives who agreed to speak to Mada Masr deny the charges made against the defendants, as well as any relationship to the Brotherhood.
Reading the Koran
Some did confirm that the defendants were religious and conservative, and that some of their behavior might have attracted attention, such as regularly reading the Koran or leading prayers among their colleagues.
Some go further in their attempts to explain the case. One relative says that the case progressed a few days after President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's appointment of a new director for Military Intelligence on April 1, 2015, and that perhaps the new director was trying to prove his efficiency. A relative of another defendant says, "There is mayhem in Sinai and they needed to make a show of force in Cairo. These officers were the scapegoats."
The indictment order to try these 28 individuals before a military court states that, since January 2011, the defendants have conspired to "attempt a forceful coup, change the constitution of the state, its republican order and the system of government." According to the document, they were also charged with "forceful attempt to occupy some public institutions … which include the headquarters of the general secretariat of the Ministry of Defense and its main headquarters, the Military Intelligence, the Egyptian Television and Radio Union, the Egyptian Media Production City, the Ministry of Interior's National Security Agency and the Central Bank of Egypt."
The penalty for both crimes is life imprisonment.
All defendants also faced charges of terrorism and joining "the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood group, while aware of its objectives of calling for obstructing the implementation of the provisions of the Constitution and law, preventing state institutions and public authorities from carrying out their responsibilities, and damaging national unity and social peace." The Penal Code stipulates a harsher punishment for both charges if the "perpetrator is a member of the Armed Forces."
As noted above, it is not possible to confirm the validity of these charges.
Relatives obtained a list of the verdicts in the case. They say that the military court sentenced all of the defendants in absentia to life imprisonment. Another four defendants who attended the court proceedings were also sentenced to life in prison, including Brigadier General Yassin Abdel Hamid Mohamed and retired Brigadier General Osama Sayed Ahmed Ali, the highest ranks among the defendants. Ten defendants were sentenced to 15 years in prison, while seven defendants were sentenced to 10 years.
Relatives say that the reasoning of the verdict issued on Aug. 16 has been written but the sentence has not yet been ratified. Military law stipulates that sentences are not considered final before their ratification by the minister of defense or his representative, who has the authority to uphold, reduce or overturn the sentence and order a retrial.
The families gathered and went to the Ministry of Defense to seek amnesty for their relatives in September. Two weeks ago, they went to the Presidential Palace and requested that the verdicts be reconsidered. Even if the conviction is ratified, families remain hopeful about their final appeal before the military Court of cassation.
*Translated from Arabic by Aida Seif al-Dawla.