WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) condemns the 25-year sentence issued by Egyptian judge Nagy Shehata yesterday against activist Ahmed Douma and 229 other defendants in a case that has been marked by numerous judicial irregularities. Also sentenced were 39 minors, who received 10-year prison sentences. The defendants, who were sentenced in absentia, may still appeal their sentences. They are accused of participating in an illegal protest, unlawful weapons possession, assaulting the police and armed forces, and the destruction of government property.
The case stems from events that occurred in December 2011, when Douma organized a demonstration in front of Egypt’s Cabinet office building in protest of the appointment of then-Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri. While events remained mostly peaceful during the first few weeks of the sit-in demonstration, clashes between protesters and police broke out after one of the demonstrators was detained and severely beaten by security forces. As a result of the “Cabinet clashes,” at least 17 people were killed and hundreds more injured.
“This case has been marked by a complete lack of due process for the defendants, serving as a fresh example of the lack of justice so common in Egypt’s court system,” said TIMEP Executive Director Nancy Okail. “Egypt’s judiciary is in dire need of reform, and that reform must start with the rogue judges who routinely and flagrantly violate their obligation to uphold the rule of law.”
Judge Shehata has received worldwide condemnation for his handling of several high profile cases in which he has been accused of disregarding internationally-accepted norms of due process. Shehata presided over the criminal case against journalists Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy, and Mohamed Baher, sentencing them to between seven and ten years in prison despite the clear lack of evidence against them. Shehata also issued mass death sentences against alleged Muslim Brotherhood members in December (which he affirmed on Monday), and is currently presiding over the case against detained American citizen Mohamed Soltan, who has been on hunger strike for more than a year and whose health is reportedly in frail condition. In Soltan’s trial, Shehata has continued to postpone the case and deny requests for Soltan’s release on medical grounds.
TIMEP strongly urges the Egyptian government to demonstrate its commitment to due process and rule of law by holding its judicial officers to the highest ethical and legal standards and ensuring that they are held accountable when they fail to meet those standards. The government must also commit to improving the professionalism of Egypt’s judiciary by evaluating and amending the criteria for judicial appointments, adopting robust training standards, and making disciplinary cases against judges more transparent. Egypt must immediately and unconditionally release all those who are unjustly detained in Egypt, and ensure that justice is done for victims of state-sponsored violence by holding police and security forces accountable for the unlawful injury or death of civilians.
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The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness of democratic transitions in the Middle East through analysis, advocacy, and action.