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Egypt: Judicial authorities condemned for “recycling” political prisoners into new cases after the end of their prison term

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The undersigned human rights organizations denounce the Egyptian authorities’ continued policy of not releasing political detainees after the end of their prison term or after dropping charges against them. Political detainees continue to be detained pending new cases in what is known as the “recycling” policy. Between December 2023 and January 2024, the authorities recycled two new cases involving citizens detained in the basis of false accusations after the end of their prison term and the expiry of the sentences previously imposed on them by the criminal courts.

In 2023, at least 251 defendants were rotated to new cases, and another 620 defendants in 2022, according to human rights organizations. The undersigned organizations call for an end to the use of this arbitrary and retaliatory practice against detainees, including politicians, political opponents, and activists. The organizations affirm that the continued involvement of the judicial authorities in fabricating new cases against political detainees and extending their imprisonment demonstrates the lack of independence of these institutions. Judicial authorities also participate in the harassment of opponents and the grave violations perpetrated against them, which violates guarantees of fair trial, challenges the legitimacy of its unjust rulings, and undermines the principle of the rule of law.

Human rights organizations have previously warned against the recycling policy or renewed arbitrary detention that has been in place for more than three years, and the resulting extension of defendants’ detention for additional periods on alleged and repeated charges. The detainees continue to face the same charges, for which they were previously detained and the courts and prosecutors acquitted them or released them, or their sentences had expired. These illegitimate practices refute the Egyptian government’s claims regarding the National Dialogue that was launched mid-2023, and its agenda of proposals for legislative amendments regarding periods of prolonged pretrial detention that exceed the legal periods of pretrial detention, and recycling policies. This pattern further confirms the absence of political will to changethis approach, and the continued dismissal and disregard of all demands of human rights organizations and political parties. The authorities continue to reuse the same or similar  charges to put individuals back in prison after their legal sentences for these charges have expired, which constitutes a violation of international human rights law, which prohibits people from being tried for the same crime more than once.

In December 2023, the Supreme State Security Prosecution decided to continue detaining Essam el-Haddad (70 years old), the former Assistant to the Egyptian President for Foreign Relations and International Cooperation, after the expiry of his 10-year prison sentence, and further ordered that he be investigated in relation with a new case (no. 2215 of 2021). Essam el-Haddad was arrested on 3 July 2013, and was forcibly disappeared at the Republican Guard headquarters in Cairo. Haddad was later transferred to the high-security Tora Prison on 21 December 2013, where he remained in solitary confinement. Haddad was prosecuted in a trial that lacked the minimum guarantees of a fair trial, and the first trial session began on 16 February 2014, before the Criminal Court. The Criminal Court issued a sentence of life imprisonment in July 2015 against Haddad. Haddad was retried, based on an appeal submitted by his lawyer, and the court decided in September 2019 to imprison him for 10 years on charges of joining a terrorist group. In July 2021, the Court of Cassation upheld this ruling. In the new case, the authorities charged Haddad with the same charges of joining a terrorist group, for which he was punished in the first case.

On 2 January 2024, El-Sayed Ali Fahim al-Azib, known as “El-Sayed Moshagheb,” head of the “Ultras Zamalkawi” football association, appeared for investigation in relation with a new case (no. 910 of 2021), Supreme State Security. The prosecution charged Moshagheb with joining an illegal group and spreading false news, and decided to imprison him pending the case. Moshagheb’s lawyers were unable to know the nature of the new case or access its file, in clear violation of fair trial guarantees. Moshagheb has been detained since March 2015, and had just completed his seven-year sentence in case No. 1107 of 2015, known in the media as the Air Defense Stadium incident of 9 February 2015,  where 20 fans of Zamalek Club were killed while attempting to attend a football match.

In October 2023, human rights lawyer and former member of the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights Hoda Abdel Moneim faced malicious accusations and recycled into a case. Hoda Abdel Moneim faced an investigation in relation to the new case immediately after completing her 5-year prison sentence in Case No. 1552 of 2018, Supreme State Security Emergency, known in the media as the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms case, and she was further accused under the same charges of joining a terrorist group. Political activist Mohamed Adel was subjected to harassment and recycling in relation to three cases bearing the same accusations, the most recent of which was case No. 2981 of 2023, by a misdemeanor court in Aga. The court sentenced Adel to four years in prison on charges of spreading false news on social media.

Mohamed al-Qassas, vice-president of the Strong Egypt Party, has been detained since February 2018, after facing detention in three cases on the basis of secret security investigations without any tangible evidence. The most recent was Case No. 1059 of 2021, Emergency State Security Felonies. The court sentenced al-Qassas to ten years in prison in May 2022 in a trial that lacked the minimum guarantees of a fair trial.

In 2020, the same recycling  practice was applied against human rights activist Ibrahim Metwally, who has been detained since September 2017 and was released in two cases on the same charges. Metwally is now detained under investigation pending a third case (no. 786 of 2020) on charges of leading a group established in violation of the law, and publishing false news and statements.

In October 2019, Gehad el-Haddad (42 years old), who is the son of Essam el-Haddad and has been detained since September 2013 was subjected to the same recycling practices again after he was acquitted of two cases, the first related to espionage with Qatar and the second known as the Rabaa Operations Room case. Instead of being released after his acquittal, El-Haddad was transferred to Case No. 1400 of 2019, Supreme State Security, , and was further accused of leading a group and providing it with information and instructions during his imprisonment. El-Haddad remains in pretrial detention, without his defense team being able to access the case file. Throughout the detainment periods of Essam el-Haddad and his son, they were denied visits and held in solitary confinement in several prisons, most notably Tora High Security Prison and Badr Prison, in addition to being subjected to ill-treatment and stripped of their personal belongings and medications. According to their lawyer, several complaints were sent to the Attorney General, but were never investigated.

The signatory organizations continue to denounce and reject the systematic retaliatory policy of recycling, which clearly confirms the absence of any political will to reform or change the human rights situation and uphold respect for freedom of opinion and expression, and represents deliberate retaliation against political and human rights opponents or any critical voices of the current policies.

Signatories:

 

  • Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
  • Committee for Justice
  • El Nadeem Center
  • The Egyptian Front for Human Rights
  • Sinai Foundation for Human Rights

For more information and media requests or inquiries, please get in touch with us (+41229403538 / media@cfjustice.org)

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