Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside Egypt’s Supreme Court in downtown Cairo on Sunday to protest the detention of over 300 protesters by the military, an Egyptian daily reported, as Egypt’s ruling military council imposed an overnight curfew around the defense ministry district for the third night.
The rash of detentions followed a series of violent clashes between protesters and military troops, who broke up a week-long sit-in protest against military rule on Friday outside the defense ministry headquarters in central Cairo neighborhood of Abbassiya.
At 4:00 pm (1400 GMT) on Sunday, dozens of protesters began mounting the stairs leading up to one of the court’s closed gates, angrily chanting anti-military chants and criticizing the practice of referring civilians to military trials, Egypt’s online edition of the state-run al-Ahram daily reported.
Some demonstrators painted graffiti on the court’s walls depicting the faces of the latest group of detained protesters.
The march came in response to calls by several political parties and movements.
Marchers then joined another hundreds-strong protest heading towards Egypt’s parliament building.
“The people demand the field marshal’s execution,” protesters shouted in reference to the country’s military ruler Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, who took over control following the stepping down of former president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.
As the protest reached Qasr al-Eini Street near the Cabinet building, dozens of protesters stood in a side alley where an army/police squad was stationed, repeating offensive chants and slogans. They were soon forced to leave the area by other protesters, who formed a human chain at the street’s entrance, according to the Egyptian daily.
Numbers began dwindling as the march proceeded to the other end of the street on which the parliament building is located.
On Saturday, military police dispersed a protest in front of the headquarters of Egypt’s military prosecution, which was held by activists to show solidarity with their arrested colleagues. At least three activists were arrested and several others were injured in the violent crackdown.
More than 300 people were arrested one day earlier, during Friday’s mass demonstration against Egypt’s ruling military council held outside the defense ministry headquartersin Abbassiya.
According to al-Ahram report, 15 female detainees have since been released, while hundreds remain in military detention.
As many as 12,000 people have been subject to military detention and prosecution since the SCAF came to power in February 2011.
Parliament had earlier discussed the possible amendment of Egypt’s military trials law and the cancellation of Article 6 of that law, which grants the president the authority to refer civilians to military tribunals. While parliament approved a draft amendment of the article on Sunday, the SCAF has yet to approve it.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s ruling military imposed an overnight curfew on Sunday around the defense ministry in Abbassita for a third night, the official MENA news agency said.
The curfew went into effect between 23:00 pm (2100 GMT) on Sunday and 06:00 am (0400 GMT) on Monday.
The Abbassiya district of the capital where the defense ministry is located was calm on Sunday after the second overnight curfew in a row following Friday’s clashes, according to AFP.
The violence, which left two people dead including a soldier, erupted just three weeks ahead of Egypt’s first presidential election since Mubarak’s ouster.
SCAF has vowed to hand power to civilian rule when a president is elected.
But protesters believe the army wants to maintain a degree of power even after the election and fear the polls will be rigged in favor of a pro-military candidate.
The presidential election is scheduled for May 23 and 24 with a run-off for June 16 and 17 if there is no outright winner.
(Additional writing by Abeer Tayel)