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Egyptian activists Ahmed Maher, Mohamed Adel, and Ahmed Douma sentenced to 3 years in jail

Political activists Ahmed Maher (R), Ahmed Douma (C) and Mohamed Adel, founder of 6 April movement, look on from behind bars in Abdeen court in Cairo on 22 December 2013
Political activists Ahmed Maher (R), Ahmed Douma (C) and Mohamed Adel, founder of 6 April movement, look on from behind bars in Abdeen court in Cairo on 22 December 2013

REUTERS/Stringer

The undersigned organizations condemn the verdict issued on 22 December 2013 by the Abdeen Court in case number 9593 for 2013 Misdemeanor Abdeen Cases, against Ahmed Maher, the previous coordinator of the April 6 Youth Movement; Mohamed Adel, the media representative of the same movement and volunteer in the media unit of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR); and Ahmed Douma, a political activist and previous member of the High Council for Culture.

The aforementioned were sentenced to three years in prison and fined 50,000 Egyptian pounds [US$7180], each. This verdict has been issued after the court indicted them with charges, including organizing a demonstration without prior notice and attacking central security forces' officers assigned to protect the premises of the Abdeen Courts Complex.

The verdict goes back to the 30 November 2013 clashes, which took place in front of the court complex, where Maher went to turn himself in and appear before the Abdeen prosecution office, which had issued an order for him to be summoned to undergo an investigation regarding charges associated with calling for a demonstration in front of the Shura Council, and protesting against the draft constitution, which allows for military trials for civilians, without informing the security bodies. The Shura Council demonstration was dispersed by security forces on 26 November 2013, and resulted in the arrest of tens of demonstrators then, while 25 of the demonstrators arrested were later transferred to the criminal court, including renowned activist Alaa Abdel Fattah.

The undersigned organizations observe a huge dysfunction in the justice system in Egypt, especially after the issuance of the aforementioned speedy verdict, which puts into question the due process for three activists, who were integral in the January 25th revolution. This also reminds us that these activists have been accused of their use of their right to expression and peaceful assembly, while others who have committed heinous crimes, including the murder of demonstrators, are still free, and have not yet been prosecuted. Moreover, we are reminded that the numerous massacres that have taken place have not been investigated yet, and justice is yet to be served for thousands.

The authorities, once again, are using the judicial system and its verdicts as a tool of oppression, where the judiciary uses its discretion with a bias in the field of political and public space, and once again, is working in this domain as a tool for the security apparatus. Since the security apparatus has decided to broaden its oppressive practices to target independent activists and revolutionaries, it has taken advantage of the current interim government's legislative powers. In this way, the exceptional and temporary legislative power of the executive was misused by the security apparatus to issue a new, restrictive law, designed under the pretense of regulating the right to public meetings and protests. The content of the law and its recent application revealed that its main purpose is the criminalization of demonstrations and the right to assembly in all forms, and providing the opportunity for pursuing political activists via forging charges against them related to prohibition of demonstrations without prior notice.

The recent verdict shows clearly the deliberate targeting of political activists by the security apparatus, under the pretense of applying the provisions of the new protest law. In the incident of the Shura Council, neither Alaa Abdel Fattah nor Ahmed Maher were among the organizers of the protest, or among those arrested at that time; and yet, charges were pressed against them and orders were made for them to appear before the prosecution office, while both had expressed their intentions of turning themselves in before the prosecution anyways.

The police did not wait for them to voluntarily turn themselves in, but instead raided Alaa Abdel Fattah's house, arrested him, and beat him and his wife. At the same time, the court ordered the release of Ahmed Maher after he appeared before it, while the National Security Office detained him until new charges were forged against him. This time the charges only included him and well-known activists Mohamed Adel and Ahmed Douma, in spite of the participation of tens of people in these clashes, and no evidence or proof were submitted regarding the actual involvement of the three activists in these clashes.

The use of the General Prosecutor's office and its authorities to oppress activists is very clear through its issuance of arrest orders for each of Ahmed Douma and Mohamed Adel without justification, and in spite of the fact that they were not called for an investigation.

While Ahmed Douma was arrested from his house, Mohamed Adel was not arrested even after the case was transferred to court and the prosecutor office's authority over it had ended, which entails the illegitimacy of the arrest order it had issued against him, especially that the judge did not issue an order for his arrest in the first court session while his lawyer was present.

Nonetheless, the security forces used the canceled arrest order to raid the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) under the pretense of arresting Mohamed Adel, who works as a volunteer at the center's media unit, even though the security officers admitted that they were stalking Adel during his visits to different places and venues from which they could have arrested him, which reveals their intentional use of the pretense of his illegal arrest to raid the center.

Security forces did not only arrest Adel but five other staff members and volunteers of the center as well. They beat, tortured and detained them for more than nine hours in an unknown location where they forced to stand for the entire time while blindfolded. Their hands were tied behind their backs and security officers took turns beating them. Such actions can only be explained as the forces' desire to deliver a message to civil society and human rights organizations. The message, which is a first of its kind under the current regime, is an escalation of the defamation campaign, which until this raid had been only verbal, launched against such organisations.

There is no doubt that the judicial verdict issued against the three activists is politicized. In fact, it's an expansion of the security forces' pursuit of young political activists, based on a deliberate and discriminatory forging of charges outside the legal purview and rule of law. This verdict, which is the first to be issued under the new protest law, is only the beginning of a wide campaign targeting activists affiliated with the Egyptian revolution, and there's a possibility of its extension to the targeting of human rights organizations, as confirmed by the security raid on the ECESR.

While security breaches persist, the prosecution office continues to neglect the repeated violations of those security bodies, and does not hesitate to comply with them. There's obvious cooperation and harmony between the prosecution and the Ministry of Interior, aided by the issuance of arrest orders and filing charges that do not hold any validity. Those charges were based on the police officers' claims, the general investigations office and National Security Office. The judiciary system collaborates in this joint effort as well, by pronouncing similar unvalidated indictments while turning a blind eye to the security violations.

The undersigned organizations therefore condemn the verdict issued on 22 December, and articulate their warning against the use of the judiciary as a tool of the security apparatus to silence voices of the opposition, which compromises the rule of law, and threatens the destruction of the main pillar of the nation's legitimacy for the public.

These practices and verdicts put into question the seriousness of the promises made to rebuild a nation based on justice and rule of law, and delegitimize any attempts of building a fair and comprehensive transitional justice system. These practices and policies are far from being pillars for rebuilding a nation that respects the rule of law; on the contrary, the aforementioned practices only re-produce the police state in a form worse and more obvious than before.

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression

Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies
Center for Egyptian Women Legal Assistance
Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
Egyptians against Religious Discrimination
Hesham Mubarak Law Center
Legal Aid Group for Human Rights
Nazra for Feminist Studies
New Woman Foundation
The Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement
The Land Center for Human Rights

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