14 rights organizations: more than two years in pretrial detention is a flagrant violation of the law AFTE files complaint with High Judiciary Council protesting renewed detention of Mahmoud Mohammed

Press Release

9 February 2016

The undersigned organizations strongly condemn the decision of the 24th circuit of the Giza Felony Court to extend the detention of high-school student Mahmoud Mohammed for another 45 days in connection with case no. 715/2014/Marg administrative. Mahmoud has already spent the maximum allowable time in pretrial detention (two years). We believe the court’s decision—taken without consideration for the series of violations seen in this case over two years—is a significant provocation. With this action, the Public Prosecution and felony court have flagrantly and willfully violated the law.

Article 143 of the Code of Criminal Procedure states that no person may be held in custody pending investigation or trial for more than two years, and this in connection with charges carrying a life sentence or death. Mahmoud was first remanded into custody on January 25, 2014, meaning he reached the legal maximum on January 25 of this year, nearly 15 days ago. As such, under the law the extension of his detention on January 6 automatically expired on January 25, regardless of the duration contained in the order. In compliance with the law, the public prosecutor should have ordered Mahmoud’s release on that day, but he unlawfully petitioned the Giza court for an extension, while the court itself violated the law in granting the petition.

An amendment to the final paragraph of Article 143 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, issued by law under interim President Adly Mansour, permits indefinite pretrial detention in certain cases, but this provision does not apply to Mahmoud’s case. The decree states that the amendment applies only to defendants sentenced to life imprisonment or death pending a retrial ordered by the Court of Cassation. Only in this case can the court order defendants remanded to custody for periods exceeding the maximum detention limits. Since Mahmoud has not been sentenced at all—he has not even been referred to trial—he is being held pending investigation and the provision does not apply.

We have tirelessly condemned the repeated abuse of the provision in the Code of Criminal Procedure that allows defendants to be held pending investigation or trial as a punitive measure. Pretrial detention has become a means to punish and restrict the freedom of defendants who under the constitution and law are innocent until proven guilty, applied in willful disregard of the clearly enumerated conditions that justify remand in certain cases.

Mahmoud Mohammed has seen his rights violated several times in this case. As a juvenile defendant—he was 17 years old at the time of arrest—he was placed in general prisons, where he has remained for more than 24 months without charge or trial. He has faced degrading treatment in these detention facilities, due to which his family filed a complaint with the public prosecutor, as well as other violations which rights groups have detailed in previous statements. Most recently, the day before yesterday, his detention was extended for an additional 45 days in violation of the law.

Numerous defendants are currently behind bars on remand orders. Although some have exceeded the maximum allowable period in custody in a clear circumvention of the law, Mahmoud’s case is especially egregious, prompting Mahmoud’s lawyers with the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) to file a complaint with the High Judiciary Council (no. 135/2016/HJC complaints) to object to the detention renewal order on February 7, 2016. On January 27, 2016, AFTE lawyers filed a petition with the public prosecutor (no. 1041/2015/Public Prosecutor petitions) asking for Mahmoud’s immediate, compulsory release having exceeded the maximum allowable period in detention, while on the same date they filed a memorandum with the HJC (no. 86/2016/HJC complaints) on the Public Prosecution’s legal obligation to release Mahmoud.

The undersigned organizations urge the High Judiciary Council, as the highest judicial body in Egypt, to consider in a timely manner the complaints and memos it has received regarding Mahmoud’s case. We also call on the Public Prosecution, as the body with current jurisdiction over the case, to check its gross violation of the law and immediately release Mahmoud, to correct the flagrant injustice meted out to Mahmoud and his family and end a miscarriage of justice that threatens to undermine one of the most important pillars of the justice system. There can be no justice when its representatives do not hold themselves to the law; no justice when judicial neutrality is eroded and the law is violated by those sworn to uphold it.

Signatory organizations

1. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

2. Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression

3. Alhaqanya Foundation of Rights and freedoms

4. Appropriate Communications Techniques for Development (ACT)

5. Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance

6. Egyptian Commission for rights and freedoms

7. El-Nadeem Centre for the rehabilitation of victims of violence and torture

8. Foundation Of The Victims Of Abduction And Forced Disappearance

9. Habi Center for Environmental Rights

10. National group for human rights and law

11. Nazra for Feminist Studies

12. The Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement

13. The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights

14.New Women Foundation