The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) welcomes today’s decision to release Egyptian human rights defender Alaa Abdel Fattah on bail. The prominent blogger and activist will face retrial, together with 24 other defendants.
In June, Alaa Abdel Fattah and the other defendants were sentenced in abstentia to 15 years in prison for allegedly violating Egypt’s draconian protest law. During today’s hearing at Tora Special Criminal Chambers, the three-judge panel stepped down, paving the way for retrial. The defence lawyers, EMHRN and other civil society actors had repeatedly questioned the impartiality of the presiding Judge Mohamed El-Fikki, requesting his recusal.
Alaa Abdel Fattah and his two co-defendants Mohamed Noubi and Wael Metwally, are to be released on 5,000 EGP bail (around 500 EUR), pending the formation of a new panel of judges. The date of the next hearing is still unknown. Unlike the other 22 defendants who face the same charges, the three men have been arbitrarily detained since the judgment in June.
EMHRN would like to thank the individuals and institutions, who have supported civil society efforts to put an end to the arbitrary detention of the three Egyptian activists. We remain, however, very concerned about the prohibitive nature of Egypt’s protest law, which violates both Egypt’s constitution as well as international standards relating to freedom of peaceful assembly.
Since its adoption in November 2013, the Protest Law has unleashed a wave of politically-motivated judicial procedures against dissenting voices, allowing for collective responsibility and disproportionate punishment. The outrageously excessive sentence levelled against Alaa Abdel Fattah is but one of many examples of this practice.
Another example is the ongoing trial of human rights defenders Yara Sallam, a researcher with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, and Sanaa Seif, Alaa Abdel Fattah’s sister. The two women were arrested in June, together with 22 others, for peacefully demonstrating against the Protest Law. The first hearing in the case, initially scheduled for 13 September, has been adjourned until 11 October, further extending the duration of the defendants’ pre-trial detention, bringing the total up to almost four months. Another prominent case relates to activists of the 6 April movement, including Ahmed Douma, sentenced to three years in jail in relation to charges under the Protest Law.
EMHRN calls upon the Egyptian authorities to promptly review the constitutionality of the Protest Law, and to immediately release all individuals who remain arbitrarily detained under this controversial law.