Human Rights Watch: Qursaya residents should not face military judge

The 25 Qursaya residents who were forcefully evicted and arrested Sunday should not face military prosecution, a human rights advocacy group said Wednesday.

New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch said in a press release that military prosecutors should immediately refer the residents of the island of Qursaya to the civilian judiciary. The group added that civilian prosecutors should also investigate reports that the military police used excessive force during the attempted eviction and lethal shooting of one of the island's residents.

The South Giza Prosecution on Monday referred investigations into fisherman Mohamed Abdu Abdel Mawgoud's death to military prosecutors. Mawgoud was shot twice, according to medical reports.

Military prosecutors have charged the 25 detained with assaulting the military and seizing land owned by the Armed Forces and ordered them held for 15 days.

"They came to the room where I was sleeping with my family," Human Rights Watch quoted local resident Ahmad Abdel Moneim as saying. "They threatened us and gave us two minutes to evacuate the room. When my cousins, Abdel Moaty Ahmed and Mostafa Ali Yassin, told the lieutenant that this is our land, he ordered their arrest, brought a tank of gasoline, poured it in the room, and set it on fire."

The Armed Forces is the registered owner of the land, a claim disputed by residents. In 2007, military bulldozers and troops stormed the island in an attempt to evict its several thousand residents. In 2008, the residents won an Administrative Court ruling that rejected a ministerial decree to evict them.

“The fact that the military is evicting people, arresting civilians, and bringing them before military courts is a serious challenge to civilian rule and President Mohamed Morsy should put a stop to it,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

The group reported that military courts tried more than 12,000 civilians in 2011 and convicted at least 9,000, including hundreds of political activists.

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