Court / Presiding Judge
First Review: Cairo Criminal Court/Judge Nagy Shehata
Second Review: Cairo Criminal Court/Judge Motaz Khafaga
Final Review: Court of Cassation/Judge Magdy Abulela
On April 11, 2015, the court issued its verdict in Case No. 317 of 2014 for 51 defendants. On December 3, 2015, the Court of Cassation ordered a retrial for 38 of the sentenced defendants. In May 2017, the court issued a verdict upon second review. On April 14, 2018, the Court of Cassation refused the appeal of 18 defendants in the case, affirming the prior verdict.
Upon first review, the court sentenced 14 defendants to death and 37 defendants to life in prison. Upon second review for the 38 defendants granted a retrial, the court handed down 15 five-year prison terms and three life sentences. Twenty-one others were acquitted. Upon a final review for 18 defendants, the Court of Cassation rejected the defendants' appeal (including that of Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie), affirming their prior verdicts.
Summary of Reasoning
This case dates back to the alleged involvement of 51 defendants in “forming an operations room to direct the Muslim Brotherhood terrorist group to defy the government during the Raba’a sit-in dispersal, and to spread chaos in the country [by] breaking into police stations, government institutions, private property, and churches.” When announcing the verdict upon first review, the judge reiterated the opinion of the Mufti, who reviewed the death sentences, and stated that they deserved punishment as “those who wage war against Allah and his Prophet.” At that time, the judge also stated “the court has upheld the rule of law,” and that “Allah is a witness to that.”
Various possible due process violations occurred throughout the trial of the case, including the arrest of some of the defendants without a warrant, the entry of weak evidence, and inadequate opportunities for the defense to present its case. Some of the defendants in the case were also journalists. On May 30, 2015, U.S.-Egyptian dual citizen Mohamed Soltan, who had been on hunger strike for about 490 days and had been sentenced to life in prison in this case, was released from prison and extradited to the United States after giving up his Egyptian citizenship. Commenting on the retrial of the case, Khaled al-Balshy, who was defending four of the journalists in the case, “told Mada Masr that the discrepancy between the initial harsh sentences and the many acquittals shows the weakness of the case.” In May 2017, the 51 original defendants of the Raba’a operations room case were added to the country's terror list, despite the fact that 21 of them had been acquitted upon the case's second review.
Legal & Judicial Implications
In light of the extensively documented due process irregularities, the prosecution of journalists who were present at the site and arrested while on the job, and the involvement of Judge Nagy Shehata—infamous for his punitive cases against both secular opposition figures and members of the Muslim Brotherhood—there are serious concerns about the degree to which this case was prosecuted fairly.