Egypt: When Transition Authorities Send Freedom Fighters Behind Bars

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Last Update 23 December 2013

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On Sunday 22nd of December 2013, three well-known Egyptian activists Ahmed Maher, founding member of April 6 movement, Mohamed Adel, media spokesman of April 6 movement and a volunteer in the media unit of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR), and Ahmed Douma, were sentenced to three years imprisonment and a fine of 50 000 EGP each by Abdeen Misdemeanor Court in Cairo. The charges against them included “organization of a protest on November 26th without notifying the Ministry of Interior”, and “assaulting security forces in charge of securing the Abdeen court on November 30th”.

This conviction, after a speedy trial, comes in light of the implementation of the new restrictive law on protest that was adopted on November 24th. [1] On November 26th, the security forces also violently dispersed a peaceful gathering in front of the Shura Council, downtown Cairo, protesting against the provision allowing for military trials for civilians in the new draft constitution. That day, Alaa Abdel Fattah, another renowned pro-democracy activist, was arrested on charges of calling for the above-mentioned protest. [2] The Prosecution referred 25 people to trial, two remain in detention, among which Abdel Fattah who’s detained in solitary confinement, awaiting for his trial, probably before the criminal court with the risk of a very heavy sentence.



FIDH condemns this new demonstration of the Egyptian authorities to muzzle freedom of expression and peaceful assembly of political opponents and human rights defenders and calls for the immediate release of Ahmed Maher, Mohamed Adel, Ahmed Douma, Alaa Abdel Fattah and Ahmed Abdel Rahman.



This harsh and totally disproportionate sentence reflects the nasty context in which fewer and fewer opponents and human rights defenders are currently fighting against the shrinking space dedicated to basic rights and fundamental freedoms in Egypt ” declared Karim Lahidji, FIDH President.



FIDH recalls that the restrictive protest law has not only provided legal shield for the authorities to crackdown on peaceful activists, but also on independent human rights organizations who are now more threatened than ever. On December 18th, security forces stormed the office of the ECESR [3], thus violating the premices of the organization, and claiming that they were looking for Mohamed Adel, who was volunteering in the media unit of the organization. During the raid, 5 other staff members and volunteers were arrested, without any warrant, beaten up and held incommunicado for 9 hours, until they were later released by the Abdeen court.



FIDH is highly concerned by these latest developments as they do not demonstrate the state’s willingness to uphold the rule of law but rather a risk of return to a police state.

Footnotes

[1For analysis of the protest law, see FIDH statement, “New assembly law legitimizes police crackdown on peaceful protests”, http://www.fidh.org/en/north-africa-middle-east/egypt/14316-egypt-new-assembly-law-legitimizes-police-crackdown-on-peaceful-protests

[2See the Observatory Urgent Appeal on the Arrest of Alaa Abdel Fattah, http://www.fidh.org/en/north-africa-middle-east/egypt/14317-egypt-arrest-of-mr-alaa-abdel-fatah

[3See the Observatory Urgent Appeal, “Raid of the headquarters of the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) and arrest of six of its members”, http://www.fidh.org/en/north-africa-middle-east/egypt/14430-egypt-raid-of-the-headquarters-of-the-egyptian-centre-for-economic-and

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