Egypt: New escalation in human rights crimes as activists and defenders referred to Emergency State Security trials on fabricated charges
The undersigned rights organizations condemn the politically retaliatory decision to refer activists Alaa Abdel Fattah and Mohamed Ibrahim, known as Oxygen, and rights lawyer Mohamed al-Baqer to trial in the Emergency State Security Misdemeanor Court. The three are being charged in a new case, identical to case no. 1356 of 2019, for which they have been held in pretrial detention for over two years.
The defendants’ attorneys were not informed of the decision to refer to them trial—the first session of which was held yesterday, 18 October 2021. The prosecution refused to share the charges file with their lawyers, and during the hearing the court denied a request to allow them to photocopy the case files or consult with their clients alone. The hearing ended in an adjournment until early November.
Activist and blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah was arbitrarily arrested at the Doqqi police station in September 2019 while serving out his supplementary sentence of police probation; he had completed a prison sentence of five years in the so-called ‘Shura protesters’ case. After his arrest and during questioning, conducted in the presence of rights lawyer Mohammed al-Baqer, Baqer was also arrested and charged in the same case, no. 1356 of 2019/Emergency State Security. Both have been held in pretrial detention for more than the legal limit of two years.
According to lawyers, the misdemeanor in case no. 1356/2019 was simply copied into a new case, docketed as no. 1228/2021/Emergency State Security. Baqer and blogger Mohammed Oxygen were added to the same new case.
During yesterday’s session, the court charged the three defendants with publishing false news that harms the country’s interests, related to their publication of some human rights violations on their social media pages in 2019, including a post Alaa Abdel Fattah shared on his personal Facebook page regarding the torture of a prisoner inside a high-security prison. Another post was shared by Mohamed al-Baqer on the page of Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms about medical negligence that led to the death of three prisoners inside the same prison. As for Oxygen, he shared a post that included videos about street children, and another about death rates in road accidents and the low level of education in Egypt according to international standards. The prosecution considered these electronic publications to harm national interests.
At the beginning of his detention, Alaa Abdel Fattah suffered inhuman treatment from the administration at the maximum security Tora Prison. Held in solitary confinement, Abdel Fattah has been denied all correspondence or contact with his family, as well as reading material from the prison library. This arbitrary treatment and denial of his most basic human rights has taken a toll on his physical and mental health, prompting thoughts of suicide. In September, Abdel Fattah’s family petitioned the prosecution to have him examined by a psychiatrist and allow his lawyers to visit him in prison, but the prosecution ignored these requests, uninterested in saving his life. The Ministry of Interior and prosecution similarly disregarded requests from Oxygen’s lawyers to allow a visit after he attempted to kill himself in prison.
The undersigned organizations denounce the referral of these activists to trial in exceptional courts, the verdicts of which are not subject to appeal and which do not adhere to basic due process standards. We hold the president and public prosecutor responsible for the life, and physical and psychological safety, of Abdel Fattah and Oxygen. We further reiterate our condemnation of prolonged, unnecessary pretrial detention, which has been turned into a form of open-ended punishment by recycling detainees into new cases with identical charges once they have served the maximum legally- allowable duration in pretrial detention. This is a flagrant circumvention of the law by a judiciary that does not enjoy a modicum of independence, in retaliation for their publication of human rights violations..
1. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
2. Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
3. Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
4. Committee for Justice
5. Egyptian Front for Human Rights
6. Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms
7. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
8. El Nadeem Centre
9. Freedom Initiative