Before the verdict: Report on violations of Case No. 12499/2020 – First Settlement, registered under No. 659/2020 Supreme State Security (Sanaa Seif’s case)
With the beginning of March 2020, Egypt’s Prisons Authority issued its instructions to ban visits for prisoners and detainees for fear of the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. It has also recently refused to allow the entry of medicines, hygiene products and letters to the brother of the victim Alaa Ahmed Seif, who is being held in pretrial detention in Aqrab (Scorpion) Prison- part of the Tora Prison Complex.
At the end of May 2020, an employee at Aqrab who used to deal with the families of inmates and prison workers died of Covid-19, which sparked the anxiety of the families of prisoners in this prison for fear of harm to their relatives due to the highly infectious nature of this virus. Alaa’s family asked prison officials to allow written communication with their relative amid continuous refusal from the administration. During the family’s attempts to communicate with Alaa, officer Muhammad Al-Nashar assaulted the mother of Alaa and Sanaa, Dr Laila Soueif. That prompted the family to stay overnight on 21 June 2020 outside the Prison Complex, in protest against the authorities’ arbitrariness and to insist on their right to be reassured about their detained relative’s wellbeing.
In the early hours of the following day, 22 June, a number of women physically attacked the family, especially Alaa’s sisters Sanaa and Mona Ahmed Seif el-Islam. That prompted his sister Sanaa and her family to file a complaint with the Public Prosecutor. While Sanaa was carrying out the procedures to submit the complaint in the afternoon of 23 June, plainclothes police officers abducted her with a public transport vehicle (a microbus) from in front of the Public Prosecutor’s office in Al-Rehab city in Cairo. She was then transferred to the headquarters of the Supreme State Security Prosecution, which interrogated her according to an investigation memorandum prepared by the National Security Agency. Sanaa was investigated on many charges.
After nearly two months, the case was transferred to the Criminal Court, and Sanaa was charged with: publishing and broadcasting false news, and insulting a civil servant on her Facebook page.
The trial began on 12 September 2020.
Below is a review of what happened during investigations, to analyse violations of the right to a fair trial for the victim.
- Initially, the arrest officers, according to Sanaa’s statement, forged the official arrest report, claiming that she had been seized in an ambush in the vicinity of Al-Rehab City, Gate 1 of the First Settlement Police Headquarters, while Sanaa confirmed in her statements that she was arrested from in front of the Public Prosecutor’s office in Al-Rehab, while she was on her way to report the incident of beating her, contrary to what was written in the arrest report.
- In its investigations with Sanaa, the prosecution discussed matters related to her private life that were not related to the accusations, but rather related to her upbringing, work, and family. The Fair Trials team considers this part of the investigation to be a deviation from investigation into the charges to a discussion of Sanaa’s private life. The prosecution also neglected opening an investigation into what Sanaa mentioned about injuries all over her body, especially the feet and the back area, and only recorded the cause of the injury, that she was beaten and dragged by four women whose identity she did not know, on 22/06/2020, at 5 am, in front of the gate of the Tora prison area.
- Additionally, the prosecution did not inform Sanaa of the investigation report, the arrest warrant, and the investigations, and her defense requested to be able to view these papers, while preserving his right to present all procedural and substantive defenses, and the defense argued that the investigation was void, because it did not include genuine interrogation of the defendant to ensure that she was aware of the truth of the charges, listening to her, and discussing in detail the charges against her.
- Sanaa’s imprisonment was renewed on paper without debating her, during the sessions to renew her detention order 5/7/2020, 19/7/2020, 28/7/2020, 17/8/2020, and Sanaa did not attend any of them. The prosecution said that it was not possible to attend it as a precaution for fear of the spread of the Covid-19.
On 26 August 2020, Khaled Dia -the first public attorney of the State Security Prosecution- issued the referral order in Case No. 12499/2020 First Settlement/Misdemeanor, registered under No. 659/2020, Supreme State Security, to the Appeals Court, and the 10th Circuit of South Cairo Felonies was set to hear the case, which was held in the Fifth Settlement Court, and the proceedings of the trial are still continuing.