Rights Groups: Five Years in Prison for Expressing an Opinion
The undersigned organizations are extremely disturbed by the verdict issued on Monday by the South Cairo Felony Court in the Shura Council case. The court sentenced Alaa Abd al-Fattah and Ahmed Abd al-Rahman to five years in prison, a fine of LE100,000 each, and five years of police probation upon release. It sentenced the 23 other defendants in the case to three years in prison, a fine of LE100,000 each, and three years of police probation.
The Public Prosecution had charged the defendants with protest and assembly, thuggery, and the destruction of public and private property. Some defendants were additionally charged with assaulting a police office and stealing his walkie-talkie. These are the charges brought in nearly every case involving the right of peaceful protest. In fact, hundreds of people are currently serving prison sentences after being convicted on similar charges.
Police forces dispersed a peaceful demonstration organized by the No Military Trials group on November 26, 2013. Participants in the protest were beaten by police, while female protestors were sexually assaulted. Police then brought trumped-up charges against citizens who were exercising their right to peaceful expression. The demonstration was organized in front of the Shura Council, where the 50-member constituent assembly was then meeting, to protest the inclusion of an article in the constitution that would allow civilians to be tried before military courts.
Although the defendants, who were out on bail at the time, attended the first session of the retrial on October 27, the judge remanded them to custody, apparently to punish them for one defendant’s stance on political events at the time.
The court that issued the sentence is one of the terrorism circuits established specifically to repress political opponents through appointed judges. Most of the sentences issued by these circuits have been extremely severe, and the trials have been marked by violations of the right of defense and due process standards. This is demonstrated by the numerous verdicts issued by these circuits that have been overturned by the Court of Cassation.
The same court with a different judicial panel sentenced all the defendants in the case to 15 years imprisonment in absentia on June 12, 2014, also fining them LE100,000 and requiring police probation for five years upon release. That trial saw several violations. Most egregiously, the verdict was issued prior to the appointed time and without notifying defendants’ counsel while the defendants were waiting to be admitted to the court, convened at the Police Academy. Security forces guarding the academy thus arrested Alaa Abd al-Fattah, Ahmed Abd al-Rahman, and Wael Metwalli as they arrived to attend the session. The Public Prosecution also committed several violations during that trial. First and foremost, it violated the privacy of Alaa Abd al-Fattah and his wife, showing private images of Abd al-Fattah’s wife taken from his computer, which was seized during his arrest, without objection from the court.
The undersigned organizations stress the danger these due process violations pose for numerous rights and liberties. They have come to represent a severe threat to the human rights system as a whole, including the rule of law and respect for the constitution, which has been rendered meaningless by the succession of such verdicts.
1. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
2. The New Woman Foundation
3. Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
4. Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance
5. Appropriate Communications Techniques for Development
6. National group for human rights and law
7. El-Nadeem Centre for the rehabilitation of victims of violence and torture
8. Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies
9. The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights
10. Masryoon Against Religious Discrimination
11. Nazra for Feminist Studies
12. The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
13. Egyptian Commission for rights and freedoms
14. The Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement
15. The Human Rights Legal Assistance Group
16. Arab Network for Human Rights Information