Cairo: An Egyptian military court on Wednesday sentenced five men to death after they robbed a gas station and killed a police commander during the getaway, the official MENA news agency reported. Seven others who were arrested after the May robbery in the Red Sea town of Al-Quseir were acquitted, the agency said.
The military, which has been in charge since a popular revolt ousted President Hosni Mubarak in February, has tried thousands of civilians for crimes ranging from robbery and assault to insulting the armed forces. Its courts have sentenced several people to hang for crimes like rape and murder.
Although the military trials were welcomed by many Egyptians during the lawless few months after the revolt, the military now faces increasing criticism for the tribunals, which rights groups say are unfair.
The New York-based group Human Rights Watch accused the military on Thursday of escalating a crackdown on critics after it decided to try an activist for insulting the ruling generals.
Asmaa Mahfouz, an activist and blogger involved in the uprising, will be tried by a military court for defamation, a judicial source said this week.
Mahfouz was questioned on Sunday for “speaking inappropriately about the military council and for using defamatory and offensive insults against the council on Facebook and Twitter,” the MENA news agency had reported.
“The military prosecutor’s decision to prosecute the youth leader Asmaa Mahfouz for ‘insulting the military’ is a serious escalation of efforts by military leaders to silence critical voices,” the rights group said in a statement.