Egypt's interim president Adly Mansour [BBC profile] on Sunday ordered the creation of a higher court that would be able to hear appeals of military court verdicts. Under the new Egyptian constitution, civilians may be tried in military courts [AFP report] for cases involving direct attacks on military personnel or military installations. Thousands of civilian cases have been referred to military courts since early 2011, when the Egyptian Revolution [JURIST backgrounder] began. The practice has faced opposition from human rights advocates, and the military tribunals have particularly faced criticism for recently passing verdicts against Egyptian journalists.
Egypt has dealt with political unrest since the Egyptian Revolution, and anti-government protesters and supporters of the Islamic Muslim Brotherhood [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] continue to fight the military backed government for political control in the country. An Egyptian court on Sunday acquitted [JURIST report] an Al Jazeera [media website] television cameraman and 61 others accused of participating in demonstrations in Cairo last July, and on Saturday, the trial of Egypt's deposed president Mohamed Morsi [BBC profile] for inciting the murder of several protesters. Last week, Egyptian prosecutors charged [JURIST report] 20 Al Jazeera journalists with joining or conspiring with a terrorist group and broadcasting false images. Also last week, Egypt announced [JURIST reports] it would elect a new president before voting on a parliament. In the last six weeks, the Egyptian government made a major step in governmental reform through the drafting of a new constitution, which was ratified [JURIST report] by 98 percent of voters last month. Egyptians voted [JURIST report] on the new military-backed constitution on January 16, with news reports citing a 42 percent voter turnout rate coupled with serious irregularities in the voting records.