EIPR condemns the trial of Tantawi, the manager and members of his campaign in the endorsement forms case
The Matareya Misdemeanor Court held a hearing session at the Amiriya Courts Complex on November 7, to look into the case referred from the Supreme State Security Prosecution, registered as Case No. 16336/2023, which involves former presidential hopeful Ahmed al-Tantawi as a first defendant, his campaign’s manager, lawyer Mohamed Aboul-Diyar, as a second defendant, in addition to 21 other defendants. The court decided to adjourn and deferred the examination of the case to 28 November, ordering that 21 members of Tantawi’s campaign be kept in remand.
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), a member of the defense team, condemned the referral decision as a continuation of the politicization of the judiciary and the use of law as a tool of repression against dissidents.
In its referral decision, the prosecution charged the first and second defendants with participating – through incitement, agreement and supply to the 3rd to 23rd defendants – in circulating election-related papers without official authorization; as well asprinting and circulating endorsement forms (No. 4), which are required to support a candidate in the upcoming presidential elections.
The 3rd to 23rd defendants meanwhile face charges of printing and circulating the aforementioned forms. These crimes are punishable by imprisonment for one year, a fine, and banning the beneficiary candidate – in case of his knowledge and consent – from running for parliamentary elections for five years starting from the date the judgment becomes final.
Article 65 of Law No. 45 of 2014 stipulates: “Whoever commits any of the following acts shall be punished by incarceration for a period of no less than one year and a fine of no less than one thousand pounds and no more than five thousand pounds, or either penalty: (...)
Third I: Printing or circulating in any manner the ballot or the papers used in the electoral process without authorization from the competent authority.”
The final paragraph of the article stipulates that “the candidate benefitting from the crimes stated in the two previous paragraphs shall be punished by the same penalty as the original offender if his/her knowledge and approval of the commitment of the crime are established, and the court shall additionally rule to disqualify him/her from candidacy in legislative elections for a period of five years commencing on the date the ruling becomes final”.
The case refers to the call made by Tantawi’s campaign in early October to citizens wishing to issue endorsement forms for Tantawi to be able to officially run for president to fill in online versions of the forms – which were available on some news websites – without having to go to public notary offices in the public registry where the form can be officially issued. The call was a symbolic attempt to show support for Tantawi in response to the deliberate obstruction of citizens who were trying to issue endorsement forms for him, by intimidating and bullying in public notary offices, incidents that were documented by EIPR.
These charges are copied from case No. 2255 of 2023 (Supreme State Security Investigations), in which 21 members of Tantawi’s campaign are detained on charges of joining a terrorist group with knowledge of its purposes, and printing and circulating election-related papers without official authorization. The defendants are currently held at Prison 6 in the 10th of Ramadan Prison Complex, while three other female members of Tantawi’s campaign are detained at Prison 4 in the 10th of Ramadan Prison Complex.
The new case comes against the backdrop of a concerted targeting of former candidate Ahmed El Tantawi and his campaign members , which began as soon as he announced his presidential bid. The targeting escalated when applications for candidates commenced officially on 25 September. EIPR documented a number of serious and systematic violations against Tantawi’s campaign, which infringed on many civil and political rights of citizens, including the right to freedom of expression, the right to public participation, and the right to physical security.
Most of these violations took place in the context of signing and collecting public endorsements needed for candidacy, or in the course of citizens volunteering to participate in the campaigns of potential candidates, or even in some cases on the occasion of expressing their opinions on the electoral process as a whole. These violations included the arbitrary detention of a large number of pro-Tantawi campaigners, the prevention of citizens from obtaining and issuing endorsement forms by bullying and intimidating them outside public notary offices> This happened without any intervention on part of the police to protect citizens, and within its eyesight in some cases. In some cases significant numbers of those citizens trying to exercise their rights were assaulted.
Quite apart from this case, EIPR documented the detention of at least 127 members of Tantawi’s campaign on similar charges in connection with five cases Nos. 2123 of 2023, 2124 of 2023, 2125 of 2023, 191 of 2023, and 2255 of 2023.