Egypt: Unabated Judicial Crackdown on Activists

Egypt, Fair Trial, Independence of the Judiciary, Justice and the Rule of Law, Press Release, Shrinking Space for Civil Society, Solidarity with Human Rights Defenders, Trial Monitoring

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In an ongoing crackdown on dissent, Egypt’s Judiciary has levelled hefty prison sentences against Alaa Abdel Fattah and his co-defendants in a trial lacking the most basic standards of fairness.

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) is appalled by yesterday’s decision of the Tora Special Chamber to sentence pro-democracy activist Alaa Abdel Fattah to five years in prison for violating the 2013 Protest Law and a fine of 100,000 EGP.

The verdict came in a retrial of 25 defendants who had been previously sentenced to 15 years for participating in a demonstration. The other defendants received three-year sentences, while 15-year sentences were upheld for those who failed to appear in court. Although an appeal can be lodged in the court of cassation, the process is likely to drag on for another year at least.

An outspoken blogger, Abdel Fattah is one of the emblematic public faces of the 2011 revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak. Since then, Abdel Fattah has been in and out of prison for protesting against military trials for civilians and later for opposing Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi. On 11 June 2014, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for “participating in a demonstration”, “assaulting a police officer” and “calling for protests”.

Since its adoption in November 2013, Egypt’s draconian Protest Law has unleashed a wave of politically-motivated judicial procedures against dissenting voices, allowing for collective responsibility and disproportionate punishment, in contravention of Egypt’s Constitution and international law.  Since it took power in 2013, the military has put thousands of Egyptians behind bars to consolidate its grip on power and stifle opposition.

EMHRN has been observing the trial and has concluded that it violates fair trial standards.  As demonstrated in its trial observation report, the prosecution has failed to present credible evidence against the defendants. This trial illustrates the flagrant complicity of the general prosecutor, the ministry of interior and the judiciary to criminalise political dissent and dissuade people from engaging in politics.

EMHRN calls for the immediate release of Abdel Fattah and his co-defendants and calls on the Egyptian judiciary to reinforce its independence and impartiality and perform its duties in accordance with international standards of fair trial.