Alaa Abdel Fattah: Egyptian Dissenting Voices Barred, Again

Egypt, Fair Trial, Freedom of Speech, Press Release, Shrinking Space for Civil Society, Trial Monitoring

EMHRN strongly condemns the decision of an Egyptian court to send prominent activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, along with 19 other defendants, back to jail after they were previously freed on bail pending their retrial.

Abdel Fattah, a prominent figure in the 2011 revolution, was freed on bail last month pending a retrial following the recusal of the presiding judges from the case. A previous court had sentenced him to 15 years in prison for “participating in a demonstration”, “assaulting a police officer” and “calling for protests”’.

The defendants were informed on Sunday 26 October that a new panel of judges had been appointed to hear their case and that the first session of their retrial would take place the following day. The newly appointed Presiding Judge Hasan Farid, who sentenced Mohammed Badie, the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood and 36 of its members to life in prison last July, ordered that all the defendants be detained pending the outcome of the trial. No reason was given for this decision.

Following the court’s ruling, Abdel Fattah was separated from the other defendants. While the other 19 defendants present in court, were taken to Tora Prison, Alaa Abdel Fattah’s whereabouts were not disclosed nor to his family, nor to his lawyers. They remain unknown.

Abdel Fattah was in pre-trial detention for 115 days before the first hearing in his case took place. All defendants will now remain in pre-trial detention until at least the next hearing, scheduled for 11 November 2014. The excessive use of pre-trial detention violates both Egyptian and international law. A recently published EMHRN Trial Observation Report on Alaa Abdel Fattah’s Case finds that “[Abdel Fattah’s] right to personal liberty and right not to be arbitrarily deprived of his liberty have been breached as well as his right to challenge the lawfulness of his detention without delay.”

Since its adoption in November 2013, Egypt’s draconian Protest Law has been used to unleash a wave of politically-motivated judicial procedures against dissenting voices, allowing for collective responsibility and disproportionate punishment. On 26 October, an Egyptian court sentenced 23 other Egyptian activists, including Yara Sallam, human rights activist and legal researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, and Abdel Fattah’s younger sister, Sanaa Seif, to three years in prison and a fine of LE10,000 (1,110€ approximately) for violating the Protest Law.

EMHRN has repeatedly urged the Egyptian authorities to amend the Protest Law to ensure its conformity with the Egyptian Constitution and international standards. The Network is deeply concerned over the government’s increasing use of the judiciary to stifle freedom of association, assembly and expression, which not only undermines the right of Egyptians to a fair trial, but also democratic reform in the country.

Find the report here: EMHRN Trial Observation Report on Alaa Abdel Fattah’s Case

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