Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Cairo court sentences activist Abdel Fatah and 24 others to 15 years for ''illegal protest''

Prominent activist Alaa Abd El Fattah
Alaa Adel Fattah with wife and baby son. (Reuters)

Outrageous news - once more  - from Cairo: The Cairo Criminal Court sentenced activist Alaa Abd El Fattah and 24 others to 15 years jail in absentia, and a fine of LE 100,000 (over € 15.000) on Wednesday, in a trial known as ''the Shura Council case'', Mada Masr reports.  On top of that the defendants will be placed under five-year police surveillance after they have completed their jail term.
Abd El Fattah and fellow defendants Mohamed Noubi and Wael Metwally were also arrested outside the Police Academy at Tora prison in Cairo this morning as they were waiting for the judge to give them permission to enter the court, lawyer Mohamed Abdel Aziz, of the Haqanya law firm, told Mada Masr by telephone. He is one of the defense lawyers and attended court on Wednesday.
Abdel Fattah and the others were accused of organizing an unauthorized protest outside the Shura Council in Cairo, attacking a police officer, stealing a walkie-talkie, hooliganism, aggression against police officers, blocking the road, crowding a public place and destruction of public property, state-run website Ahram Gate reported.

They had staged a protest outside the Shura Council, Egypt’s parliamentary advisory body, in Cairo on November 26 to demonstrate against the law that places severe restrictions on protesting and public assembly, as well as an article on military trials for civilians included in the 2014 Constitution.
Lawyer Abdel Aziz and family members were surprised that a judgment was reached by 9 am, when they were expecting the hearing to start at 10 am. They believe the defendants were purposefully prevented from entering the court in order to issue a ruling in absentia, and to treat them as though they had fled, despite attending all previous court sessions. The court at Tora was due to hear testimonies from the prosecution Wednesday morning, as well as video evidence of the defendants’ alleged crimes. Abdel Fatah's family is demanding a re-trial. His father is the well-known human rights lawyer Ahmed Seif, who runs the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, his sister Monaf Seif is a founder of the No to Military Trials group.
The judge, Mohamed al-Feqy, is believed to have a personal vendetta against 33-year-old Abd El Fattah, who is a well-known blogger and political activist,  Mada Masr writes. Abd El Fattah demonstrated against Feqy in 2005 on accusations that he was part of a team of judges that rigged the parliamentary elections that year. Feqy’s name had been placed on a black list of judges by the Lawyers' Syndicate.The defendants had requested that the judges working on the case be changed, but Cairo’s Court of Appeal declined. The Protest Law, which had been issued a few days before the November 26 protest, was first implemented in the Shura Council case. At the time, 50 people were arrested. They were all subsequently released, except for defendant Ahmed Abdel Rahman, who protesters say was not even demonstrating but instead was simply trying to protect one of the female demonstrators.
Abd El Fattah’s name was added to the case a day after the protest. He announced at the time he would voluntarily hand himself in to the prosecution for questioning, but police stormed his home before he was able to do so, on November 28, forcefully arrested him.
Human rights groups have condemned the Protest Law, which was signed by then president, Adly Mansour. It bans protests without prior police approval from the Ministry of Interior. It was believed to have been aimed at the banned Muslim Brotherhood organization, but has since also been used against secular political activists. 

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