Middle East

Egypt's military rulers face crisis of confidence

Torah prison, Cairo
Image caption There is now a "VIP section" at Tora prison where a growing number of former officials are in detention.

As former officials go on trial for ordering the killing of protesters, some Egyptians still lack confidence in the ruling military, reports the BBC's Leana Hosea in Cairo.

Egypt's Supreme Military Council has promised that those responsible for abuses of power in the former government will be brought to justice.

On Tuesday, former Interior Minister Habib el-Adly appeared in court on charges of ordering the shooting of activists in the country's popular uprising. He denies the allegations.

Mr Adly has recently been joined at Tora prison, on the outskirts of Cairo, by many other officials linked to the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak.

Also under detention are Mr Mubarak's two sons, Alaa and Gamal, who are being investigated in connection with the violent suppression of the uprising as well as for allegations of corruption.

The public prosecutor has also said Mr Mubarak, who is detained at Sharm el-Sheikh International Hospital, will be moved to a military hospital. He faces similar charges.

A big effort is being made to show that nobody is above the law. Yet many people still have concerns.

Slow process

In a Cairo suburb, Islam Raafat's parents have turned their small living room into a shrine for their son, who was run down by a white van that ploughed into protesters on 28 January.

"I'm happy the army have arrested Mubarak, but I'm also frightened because it is taking so long," says his mother Kouther Abllah Mahmoud. "My son was killed three months ago."

Image caption Huge crowds on 8 April demanded that the ruling military bring the former president to justice.

Some fears linger that Mr Mubarak will find immunity from prosecution.

"It's been said that the army made a deal with their former commander-in-chief, Hosni Mubarak, not to press charges against him," says retired Brigadier General Ayman Salama.

He believes that mass rallies on 8 April, pressing for a trial, pushed the military into a corner.

"After the 'Cleansing Friday' protests, the army felt they had to meet the people's demands, or civil unrest and strikes would not stop and the army's reputation would be damaged," he says.

Continuing abuses

Human rights groups suggest there are other ominous signs that the army might not deliver on the demands of the revolutionaries.

They include hundreds of allegations of torture which they say are not being investigated.

According to the Egyptian Initiative on Personal Rights, a human rights group, more than 5,000 civilians have also been sentenced in military courts since the February revolution.

Image caption Human rights groups expressed dismay at the three-year jail sentence given to blogger Maikel Nabil

On 11 April, 25-year-old blogger, Maikel Nabil, was sentenced to three years in prison for insulting the military and spreading false information.

He had set up a movement against compulsory military service and suggested in his blog that the military could be as harsh as the Mubarak government when dealing with dissenters.

In a statement, Human Rights Watch described his conviction as "the worst strike against free expression in Egypt since the Mubarak government jailed the first blogger for four years in 2007".

The sentencing of the blogger took place without his lawyer being present.

"What surprised me was that Maikel was sent to a military court and Habib el-Adly, the former interior minister, was sent to a civilian court," says human rights activist Maged Maher.

"He was convicted in 13 days and Mubarak is enjoying his rights. This contradiction is raising many questions."

In custody

Human Rights Watch says the army is replicating many familiar patterns.

Recently, I too was arrested and held for several hours with a group of Egyptian activists when reporting on a meeting about alleged human rights violations.

An army officer and plain-clothes policemen broke up the gathering on the grounds that false rumours were being spread against the military and that foreign spies were trying to ruin the revolution. Later an apology was issued.

However, democracy advocates foresee more trouble with the military leadership.

"We are not happy with the military and the way things are going," says Alfred Raouf.

"More political confrontation with the army is inevitable".

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