Amnesty Int'l calls for Egypt to halt 'Facebook trial'

Ahmed Bassyouni is charged with discussing military online; rights group says info was public, calls case "abuse of justice system, right to fair trial."

Arabic laptop computer 311 AP (photo credit: AP)
Arabic laptop computer 311 AP
(photo credit: AP)
Amnesty International on Friday called on Egyptian authorities to halt the military court trial of a Facebook user facing up to five years imprisonment for publishing already-public information on Egypt's military.
Thirty-year-old Ahmed Hassan Bassyouni was charged on November 24 with revealing military secrets, creating a Facebook group on the topic of military service in Egypt and answering questions on the subject without permission, according to the Amnesty International statement.
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Although the Facebook group he created was given a name identical to the official body in charge of Egyptian military service, Bassyouni was believed to have made it clear that he was not representing the government.
In an official statement, Amnesty International said it appears Bassyouni was charged for "publishing information readily available in the public domain and often published in local newspapers." The statement added that in this case, the organization "would consider him a prisoner of conscience."
Bassyouni was reportedly arrested in late October after an Egyptian radio interview about his Facebook group. The Amnesty statement said that following the interview, he was summoned back to the radio station where military investigators arrested him.
Amnesty alleged that the "trial shows the limitations imposed by the Egyptian authorities on the rights to freedom of expression."
Criticizing the Egyptian justice system, Amnesty International called on Cairo to "end the practice of trying civilians before military courts." The statement continued, "This is an abuse of the Egyptian judicial system and the right to a fair trial," calling the court case, "fundamentally unfair."