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Raba’a Sit-in Case

Court / Presiding Judge

First Review: Cairo Criminal Court/Judge Hassan Farid
Retrial (for some defendants sentenced in absentia): Cairo Criminal Court/Judge Hassan Farid

Procedural History

On July 28, 2018, the court issued its verdict. A retrial for some of those initially tried in absentia is currently ongoing.


Upon first review, 75 of the 739 defendants were sentenced to death; 47 were sentenced to life, 374 to 15 years, 23 to 10 years, and 215 to 5 years in prison. Five defendants died during the trial. A retrial for some of those initially tried in absentia is currently ongoing.

Summary of Reasoning

The case dates to the Raba’a sit-in dispersal in August 2013. The 739 defendants faced a number of charges, including but not limited to planning and participating in an armed gathering, the murder of police forces tasked with breaking up the gathering, and the possession of weapons without a license.

Anecdotal Notes

Among the defendants in the case is photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid (popularly known as Shawkan). The trial had a number of irregularities, including that it was at least once adjourned because the defendants would not all be able to fit in the existing cage in the courtroom. Lawyers approximate that only about 300 of the defendants were in detention while the trial was ongoing, while the remainder were being tried in absentia. A number of the defendants sentenced in the case, including Shawkan, are additionally required to serve a five-year probation term; Shawkan, for example, is currently reporting to the police station every night from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. for what will be a five-year probation term.

Legal & Judicial Implications

Because the case is a mass trial in which a number of defendants were being prosecuted collectively, the case raises numerous implications regarding the right to a fair trial and due process. The fact that the case also involved the trial of a journalist who was arrested while doing his job raises serious questions on the protections for freedom of the press and expression. Beyond this trial, it is vital to regard the probation sentences that the defendants are serving as a compounded form of punishment. In its implementation, this probation deprives them of their right to movement, their ability to seek gainful employment, and their time with loved ones.