Egypt to step up military trials after Sinai attack

CAIRO - Egypt expanded the jurisdiction of military courts on Monday to try civilians accused of attacking state facilities or blocking roads, following some of the worst assaults on security forces since last year's ousting of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.
The measure, approved by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, is likely to be seen by his critics as another clampdown on dissent by a government that has jailed thousands of Morsi's supporters and targeted other activists.
Military courts can currently try anyone charged with attacking military installations or personnel, but Monday's presidential decree gives them jurisdiction over attacks on infrastructure such as roads, railway or pipelines.
It also empowers military courts to try people who obstruct roads, for example by holding unlicensed protests.
The move comes after two attacks on Friday killed at least 33 security personnel in the Sinai Peninsula, a remote but strategic area bordering Israel, Gaza and the Suez Canal.
No group has claimed the attacks, which bore the hallmark of Egypt's most active militant group, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis.
The decree authorizes the armed forces to take part in securing state installations such as power stations, oil facilities, railways and road networks alongside the police.
"This decision applies for two years, and the crimes committed against these facilities will be referred to the military prosecution before being presented to the military judiciary," presidential spokesman Alaa Youssef said.
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