“From a human rights perspective, we see the submission of civilians to a military justice system as one of the most problematic things to emerge in this period of time,” says Priyanka Motaparthy of Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Cairo. “These are civilian protesters, they're being interrogated in the presence of military lawyers that the military prosecution has appointed. They're not being given access to civilian lawyers.… Once they've been sentenced, there's no appeals process.”
One of the hallmarks of the security apparatus during the Mubarak era was its use of plainclothes thugs against protesters. Such attackers were unleashed upon peaceful demonstrators during the revolution on Feb. 2, in what was one of the bloodiest days of fighting.
Aggressive men armed with sticks have been making regular appearances lately, as well. Tuesday night and Wednesday around noon, groups of armed men set upon the hundreds of protesters still camped in the center of Tahrir Square, throwing rocks at them. They also attacked a protest in front of a downtown state security building Sunday, and have been reported in other neighborhoods. Because of the nature of the situation, it's difficult to ascertain exactly who they are.
But Emad Gad, an analyst at the state-funded Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, says state security officers are working with corrupt businessmen and members of the NDP to sow chaos by sending thugs out to attack civilians. He said the same elements were also trying to sow religious strife.