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Egypt parliament limits future military trials

Associated Press Modified: May 6, 2012 at 3:46 pm •  Published: May 6, 2012

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's Islamist-dominated parliament on Sunday approved a ban on the country's next president from sending civilians for trial by military tribunals, but preserving that power for the military itself.

The measure would curb the powers enjoyed by the deposed President Hosni Mubarak, who used the military tribunals to refer opponents, especially Islamists.

The law retains the current wide-ranging powers for the military to send civilians to military tribunals. Activists have been campaigning against that practice by the ruling generals who took over from Mubarak in February last year.

More than 10,000 civilians have been referred to such tribunals since then, some for criticizing the military.

On Saturday alone, more than 300 civilians were sent for military prosecution following violent demonstrations near the Defense Ministry in Cairo. They face accusations of attacking troops and disrupting public order.

Late Sunday, the military renewed an overnight curfew in the area of the ministry for a third day.

Human Rights Watch researcher Heba Morayef said the new measure fails to protect civilians and civilian justice system from the military.

"It is an attempt to limit the next president's power, but does nothing about the relations between civilians and military," she said. "The newly elected civilian authority is not responding to one of the main demands on the streets to protect the rights of civilians."

Another lawyer, Ragia Omran, who has been campaigning for ending the military trials, said the measure was a "disappointment," because there were consultations with lawmakers to limit the military's jurisdiction.

"The (lawmakers) don't care about the public opinion. It is only good for them," she said.

The measure allows those tried under Mubarak to appeal the verdicts before a military tribunal. This includes some of the senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders.

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