Cairo Â International figures, representatives of international rights groups, journalists and members of the legal profession, continue to huddle around Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood following a trial session of its top members that was described as “shameful” and its legality was seriously questioned. During a conference in downtown Cairo hosted by Egypt’s Bar Association on Monday, several of these figures raised their voices in protest of the procedures of a military tribunal trying 40 leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition group.
Among them were, United States attorney general Ramsey Clarke, award-winning British journalist Yvonne Ridley and Samih Khrais, the regional representative of the London-based Amnesty International.
Clark urged Egyptians to “organize and effectively protect their own rights,” as the Brotherhood leaders continue to face the scrutiny of Hosni Mubarak’s government.
“People in Egypt should not wait and believe that some remedy will come from abroad,” said Clark who believes that the US government is a major ally of Mubarak and so will not interfere to bring justice in Egypt.
He added that it was “pitiful” how the country’s biggest opposition group, was being clamped down upon by the government and called on authorities to “recognize the error that they are in.”
The high-profile Brotherhood, although civilians, are being tried in a military court for charges of money laundering, belonging to and financing a banned group “that uses terrorism to achieve its ends,” disrupting public peace and endangering civil liberties.
Ridley described the Brotherhood’s trial as “unprecedented” and a “miscarriage of justice” adding that the hearing “brought shame on the Egyptian government.”
“We are not going to get justice in a military court. We are not going to get justice from dictators and scholars for dollars who do not recognize the injustice (that happened) yesterday,” said Ridley referring to the third session of the trial, which took place on Sunday.
The seven-hour session took place amidst wide protests regarding the legality of trying civilians before military courts where the Muslim Brotherhood leaders and their supporters were in uproar.
Only lawyers and family members of the defendants were allowed inside the courtroom, after standing for hours in the blistering sun and agreeing to leave cell phones, cameras, notebooks, and even pens outside the courtroom. Every single attendee was searched thoroughly, and they were not allowed to set foot outside the military facility for as long as the trial was in session.
At one point during the trial, several civilians stepped in and screamed their protests to the panel of judges. One attendee described his treatment at the court door as “humiliating and demeaning.”
The authorities refused to permit representatives of international human rights groups, pro-democracy activists – including Clark, Ridley and Khrais – and bloggers to attend as observers.
Very few female members of the press Â who wore Islamic scarves – succeeded in sneaking inside by pretending to be relatives. The rest were pushed and shoved at the door of the court.
“I tried to get in and I am an impartial witness,” said Khrais of Amnesty International on Monday, but “I waited for my pass for three hours then I was turned back.”
“What happened defames the trial and the Egyptian government’s interests because (Amnesty’s) presence could have added legitimacy to the procedure,” he added.
Clark, who was also banned from the trail, added that he will try to get in again, but if he fails he will have to leave because “it will be a waste of time.”
Ridley, who was similarly barred from the trials, said that the alternative now is “to name and shame the judges, the prosecutors, (and) the police.”
“It’s a great shame and I really feel your pain,” she said addressing the families of the accused, “but we have to try to make a difference and get your (families) out of these prisons.”
Egypt’s government wants to promote what Ridley referred to as “a diluted form of Islam” and so they have always feared the “real Islam” that the Brotherhood practices.
“(They want) a pacified Islam that means that we submit to the West and not to Allah,” she said in her fiery statement, calling on the people to “expose the government for what its is; a puppet for America (and) a complete sham.”
Ridley said that she believed the Brotherhood leaders were punished not because they are Egypt’s foremost opposition group but because “neo-conservative think tanks in America have been trying to link the Brotherhood to Hamas.”
Hamas is a Palestinian militant group that has recently taken control of the Gaza Strip. The Islamic group, which was born out of the womb of Egypt’s Brotherhood, had succeeded in achieving unprecedented victory in the latest Palestinian parliamentary elections, gripping the majority of seats.
The Hamas experiment is said to have constituted a threat to the governments of neighbouring countries whose lands harbour Islamic groups that are popular among the grassroots, as in the case of Egypt and Jordan.
Meanwhile, most of the defendants in the protested trial were arrested last November in a fierce security crackdown where the leaders were charged with membership of a banned organization, and with “providing students with weapons and military training.”
Although acquitted three times by different Cairo courts, the leaders were kept in custody and were transferred to a military court upon a presidential decree. The decree was revoked by Cairo’s Supreme Administrative Court, but the decision was soon reversed when the state appealed.