We ask the Public Prosecution to do what is necessary and expected in these exceptional circumstances: release Patrick and the other remand detainees who are in the early stages of investigation
For the third time in less than two weeks, the Prisons Department fails to transport our colleague Patrick George Zaki from his detention place in Tora Prison to his detention renewal session in Supreme State Security Prosecution Office citing a force majeure event. Patrick’s detention renewal hearing in case. 1766/2019 Supreme State Security Investigations, was meant to first take place on March 16 before his detention legally expires, and then was postponed to March 23 and subsequently March 30. Today and for the third time, the Prosecution issued its decision to postpone for another week without holding the hearing and without the defendants’ presence.
It is not expected that the hearing will take place next week, in light of an anticipated extension of the emergency measures put in place by the government across its different departments in response to the Covid19 pandemic. These measures included a suspension of court hearings that went into effect on March 15. It is also worth noting that prison visits across the nation have been temporarily banned since March 10, a decision issued by the Ministry of Interior in what was one of the first responses by any state body to the Covid19 crisis. Since that date, Patrick’s family -- like the families of all other prisoners and detainees in Egypt -- have not been able to visit their son, enquire after him, or deliver food to him. The prison administration has only allowed them to deliver personal sanitation items.
EIPR’s lawyers had previously, on March 23, submitted medical reports that dated back to July 2019 that confirm Patrick’s asthma condition. Asthma is one of the conditions that the Egyptian ministry of health and the WHO list as a risk factor that makes a person more vulnerable to the coronavirus disease. Today, EIPR’s lawyers asked the prosecution for permission to allow study material to be delivered to Patrick in his detention.
EIPR’s lawyers reiterated our main demand, to release Patrick from pre-trial detention especially since we have concerns for his health and vulnerability to coronavirus and Covid19. EIPR’s lawyers also reiterated and reaffirmed what has been argued in everyone of the previous hearings: that Patrick has a known and fixed address and all the conditions that qualify someone to be released from remand according to the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) apply to him.
We ask the Public Prosecutor to take the bold decision expected of him in these exceptional times, and in accordance with the powers vested in him and the laws that allow for the release of any detainee under investigation at any point in time as per Art. 204 of the CPC. We demand the release not only of Patrick, but of all the other remand (pre-charging) and pre-trial detainees from the high risk groups most vulnerable to infection and to Covid19’s complications: those who are 60 years of age or above, as well as people with pre-existing conditions that include respiratory conditions, immune system disorders, diabetes, heart conditions, cancer among other chronic conditions. The Public Prosecution had already released tens of detainees from remand and pre-trial detention in cases of a political nature during the months of February and March, the majority of whom were held in relation to cases 1413/2019 and 1338/2019. The prosecution had also released a further 15 individuals on March 21 -- after the implementation of the Covid19 crisis related decisions to suspend court hearings and freeze prison visits.
We want to take this chance to reaffirm that there are many more people in remand and pre-trial detention that the Prosecution should release for their own protection as well as the protection of the whole society, consistent with the other measures taken in response to the Covid19 crisis. This is especially important as the inability to transport remand and pre-trial detainees to hearings that are meant to be held to decide on whether their detention should be renewed or not is likely to continue. And since no one can anticipate an end anytime soon to this force majeure event.