The military has said it will not surrender an inch of land used for training anywhere in Egypt, according to a statement release to the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper.
The statement was made Sunday morning and referred to the island of Qorsaya, where military personnel and local residents have been embroiled in a land ownership dispute for years.
The military justified its position by saying it would not concede on such matters because their goal is to defend the Egyptian people against any foreign threat to the nation’s stability and security.
The military said the island is a strategic location for protecting the Greater Cairo region and in the event that roads were destroyed it could serve as a key waterway.
Last November tensions boiled over to violence, with the military killing a resident and arresting 26 others. Residents of Qorsaya have claimed the land belonged to them, and two separate administrative court orders have defended their position.
The army however has accused the island residents of trying to exploit “the atmosphere of chaos and turmoil” in order to steal army land for personal gain. The army also said in the statement that it has never evicted any residents and said the land which the army has occupied since 2007 was uncultivated and unoccupied, adding these people were working for their own political gain at the expense of the military.
The 26 residents arrested by the military had expected their final verdict to be handed out on 14 January, but the military court judge postponed the final verdict to 28 January to have more time to review the case files. Mahmoud Salamani from the No to Military Trials for Civilians movement said the judge was most likely attempting to avoid public anger. The new date, according to Salamni, will most likely help deflect attention as various protests in relation to the anniversary of the 25 January Revolution are expected to be taking place.
Ahmed Mohamed Ali, a military spokesman said that 20 of the defendants in the case confessed during the investigation of being paid by an instigator, who has since fled the country. He further stated that the army has held a position of dignity and honour for over 7,000 years and has never in its time expelled a citizen.
“When have we abandoned our historic role as protector of the people,” Mohamed Ali asked.
Since the revolution, an estimated 12,000 civilians have faced military trials. Although President Mohamed Morsy said he would put an end to such a practice, there are at least 38 civilians who have faced military courts since last November.