EGYPT: no fair trial for Alaa Abd El-Fattah

A report by observers from the Solicitors’ International Human Rights Group (SIHRG) commissioned by EuroMed Rights to monitor hearings held in a criminal case brought by the General-Prosecutor of Egypt against Alaa Abd El-Fattah (a renowned pro-reform and democracy activist) and 22 other persons concludes that Alaa Abd El-Fattah did not receive a fair trial.

EuroMed Rights calls for Alaa Abd El-Fattah’s immediate release and urges the Court of Cassation to hear his appeal without further delay.

Assessing the trial against the international standards of a fair trial, standards which have been incorporated into Egyptian domestic law by way of its 2014 Constitution, the EuroMed Rights’ report finds that Alaa Abd El-Fattah’s right to: (1) liberty; (2) an impartial tribunal; (3) a public hearing; (4) the presumption of innocence; (5) the disclosure of the case against him; (6) be present during his trial; (7) prepare his defence and (8) examine witnesses, have all been breached.

The report concludes that two of the fundamental principles of a fair trial, the right to be presumed innocent and the right to be tried before a competent, independent and impartial tribunal were violated.

This conclusion is further emphasised by the Court’s decision not to hold their hearings in public and to place Alaa Abd El-Fattah, and all the other defendants, in a glass, sound-proof cage, which prevented him from being properly present during his trial and in particular from speaking to his lawyers during court sessions or adequately hearing the evidence against him.

The decision taken the Court in October 2014, to detain Alaa Abd El-Fattah, without any reasoning at all, was a decision which not only violated his right to a fair trial but also his right to personal liberty.

Background to the case

On 26 November 2013, at around 4pm, Alaa Abd El-Fattah and several others took part in a peaceful demonstration outside the Shura Council in Cairo. Called for by the activist group No to Military Trials for Civilians, the demonstration was timed to coincide with the Constitutional Committee’s vote on whether the draft constitution should allow for the military trial of civilians. At around 4:30pm, security forces, relying on Egypt’s Law 107 of 2013 on the Right to Public Meetings, Processions and Peaceful Demonstrations (the 2013 “Protest Law”), forced those attending the protest to disperse. The security forces fired a water hose into the crowd, detained and arrested many of those who had been peacefully standing and chanting on the pavement outside Shura Council.

A few days later, Alaa was charged with offences under the 2013 “Protest Law”, the 1914 Assembly Law as well as accused of assaulting two police officers and stealing a police officer’s radio. His trial started on 23 March 2014 and judgment in his case was handed down on 23 February 2015. All the hearings in his trial took place in the terrorist Special Chamber at Tora Prison.

More than a year after he was charged, the Court found Alaa Abd El-Fattah guilty of all of the offences of which he was accused except the theft of a police officer’s radio. He was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment, fined 100,000 Egyptian pounds (about 11,700 euros) and a 5 year period of supervision was ordered following his release. An appeal of this judgment has been lodged at the Court of Cassation.

Read the full report here