Activists protest against referral of civilians to Egyptian special courts

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The Egyptian Supreme Prosecutor’s Office for State Security referred a number of human rights lawyers and prominent political activists jailed in a special court on October 16.

This decision sparked outrage from rights activists State Security Emergency Course do not have jurisdiction over civilians. In addition, the detained activists have been remanded in custody for periods exceeding the term of imprisonment provided for in the Penal Code – although the law expressly provides for their release.

In 2013, interim president Adly Mansour approved amendments the code of criminal procedure, setting pre-trial detention up to 24 months. Once this sentence has been served, the accused must be released. Egyptian authorities, however, often ignore this law.

Among those who were recently referred to the Cairo emergency court is the former spokesperson for the Civil Liberal Democratic Movement, Yahya Hussein Abdel Hadi. He has been in pre-trial detention since his arrest in January 2019, serving a sentence of 10 months over the legal period.

Lawyer Mohammed el-Baker, founder and director of the Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms; political activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah; and Mohammad Ibrahim Radwan, a blogger also known as “Oxygen”, are also among those brought before the special court. The three have been in pre-trial detention since September 2019.

Egyptian human rights organizations have condemned the referral of activists to a special court. In a joint statement published by the Egyptian Front for Human Rights on October 19, the organizations called the move “a further escalation of human rights crimes in Egypt.”

They revealed that the defendants’ lawyers had not been informed of the removal order. “The prosecution refused to share the charges against their lawyers and, at the hearing, the court rejected a request to allow them to [lawyers] to photocopy the files or consult their clients alone, ”the statement said.

He added: “The undersigned organizations denounce the referral of these activists to special courts, whose verdicts are not subject to appeal and which do not respect fundamental standards of due process. We hold the President and the Public Prosecutor responsible for the life and physical and psychological security of Abdel Fattah and Oxygen.

Organizations called pre-trial detention a “form of unlimited punishment by recycling detained in new cases with identical charges once they have served the maximum time allowed by law “and” a flagrant circumvention of the law by a judiciary which does not enjoy a minimum of independence “.

Human rights lawyer and former presidential candidate Khaled Ali told Al-Monitor that in addition to the high-profile cases of Baker, Abdel-Fattah, Ibrahim and Abdel-Hadi, three other defendants held in pre-trial detention for two years were dismissed before the special court in July: human rights lawyer and former parliamentarian Zyad el-Elaimy, as well as journalists and politicians Hossam Moanis and Hisham Fouad. “The three had been in pre-trial detention since June 2019,” he said.

Ali said he submitted requests to the Supreme State Security Procuratorate and the Attorney General to implement the law and release the detainees. His demands fell on deaf ears and the activists were brought to justice. “All politicians, human rights defenders and activists are on trial on false charges of spreading false news, statements and rumors about the internal conditions of the country. ”

Mona Seif, Abdel-Fattah’s sister, spoke about the details of the first hearings of the trial of his brother Baker and Ibrahim on October 18. declaration she posted on Facebook, she exposed the legal violations that marred the trial, including the court’s denial of defense requests.

She added: “The defense has requested to review the documents in the case and obtain a photocopy for their review and to submit the appropriate pleadings. The defense also called for the release of the defendants as their imprisonment is currently against the law. All the requests were rejected by the court, she stressed.

Meanwhile, the activists’ trials have been postponed.

A legal researcher from one of the human rights organizations that signed the joint statement on October 19 told Al-Monitor: “Refer activists, politicians and human rights defenders to a security court in ‘State of emergency is a dangerous decision’.

“The decisions of these courts are final and cannot be appealed or set aside in other courts, which constitutes a fundamental violation of human rights, the right to a fair trial and the right of the accused to appeal the verdicts rendered against them, ”said the researcher. , who wished to remain anonymous.

“Once the verdict is pronounced against the defendants, it is executed immediately without the possibility of a new trial. The only available means of opposition is to lodge a complaint with the military commander in order to override the decision. However, this has never happened before, ”he added.


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