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Two-year sentence against prominent Egyptian lawyer and activist upheld

On 20 May 2014, the Sidi Gabr Misdemeanour Court in Alexandria upheld a sentence of two years in prison and a fine of EGP 50,000 ($US 7010) against lawyer and activist Mahienour El-Massry for protesting without permission at a demonstration on 3 December 2013 calling for the punishment of the killers of torture victim Khaled Said.

El-Massry is accused of breaching the protest law and of attacking security forces. Eight other activists face the same charges in relation to demonstrating in solidarity with Khaled Said. Poet Omar Hazeq, along with activists Loay Kahwagi, Islam Hussein and Nasser Abu Al-Hamed, were sentenced to two years in prison in person, while El-Massry and four other activists were sentenced in absentia. El-Massry decided to challenge the verdict, but on 20 May the court upheld her conviction.

According to ANHRI lawyers who attended the hearing in Alexandria to defend El-Massry, doubts were raised surrounding the politicization of her case. The lawyers were forbidden from presenting their defence. Earlier on in the day, they called for the disqualification of Judge Mohammad Coptan as he had previously refused to review the case at the Court of First Instance. As a consequence, the case was referred to the chief judge who then referred it to yet another court.

The lawyers were surprised to see that the judge assigned to the case happened to be the same judge who issued the initial verdict in absentia. The lawyers again called for his disqualification from the case as he had already issued a verdict. The lawyers called for the case to be transferred to another court and postponed before they could present their plea. Towards the end of the session however, the judge ignored their demands and upheld the sentence.

"This harsh sentence comes as part of a series of court rulings issued against activists and symbols of the 25 January revolution under the protest law created to silence the opposition," said ANHRI. "Mahienour El-Massry is not the first Egyptian to be imprisoned under this law. The most prominent activists include the April 6 movement founders Ahmed Maher and Mohammed Adel, as well as activist Ahmed Douma and poet Omar Hazeq."

ANHRI calls on the government to stop the use of this protest law which hinders the practices of civil and political rights and greatly obstructs the democratic path in Egypt.

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