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Implications for Rights and Freedoms

Shura Council Protest Case

Court / Presiding Judge

First Review: Cairo Criminal Court/Judge Muhammad Ali al-Fekki
Second Review: Cairo Criminal Court/Judge Hassan Fareed
Final Review: Court of Cassation/Judge Ahmed Omar Mohiuddin

Procedural History

In June 2014, the court issued its verdict upon first review. A retrial was later granted and began in October 2014, although defendants were ordered re-detained during this time. On February 23, 2015, a verdict upon second review was issued. On September 23, 2015, President Abdel-Fattah El Sisi issued a pardon for 100 detainees, among them 18 of the Shura Council detainees, leaving Alaa Abdel Fattah the last remaining active defendant. On November 18, 2017, the Court of Cassation issued its final review.

Verdict

Upon first review, the 25 defendants were sentenced to 15 years in prison and each fined LE100,000. Upon appeal, Alaa Abdel Fattah and Ahmed Abdel Rahman were sentenced to five years in prison, an LE100,000 fine, and five years of probation. Nineteen other defendants were sentenced to three years in prison, a LE100,000 fine, and three years of probation. Upon final review, the five-year prison sentence of Abdel Fattah was confirmed by the court.

Summary of Reasoning

This case dates back to November 26, 2013, when security forces dispersed a protest outside the Shura Council. Protesters were rallying against the newly issued Protest Law. The defendants were charged with organizing an unauthorized protest, attacking a police officer, hooliganism, committing acts of aggression against police officers, blocking the road, crowding a public place, and destroying public property. The defendants had initially also been accused of theft, but this charge was dropped in the final verdict.

Anecdotal Notes

During the protest in question, participants had been beaten by police officers, and female protesters were sexually assaulted. Ahmed Abdel Rahman, who was sentenced to five years, was not even a participant in the protest; he merely intervened when he saw police officers assaulting female protesters. During the trial of the case, the prosecutor presented private photographs from the laptop of Alaa Abdel Fattah; multiple pieces of suspect and contradictory evidence were also presented by the prosecution. Before reading out the verdict in the case, the judge praised his own court for allocating significant time for statements from the defense and claimed that the verdict was immune from any influence. During the Court of Cassation’s review of the case, the judge who had initially been assigned the case recused himself from review; the case was ultimately assigned a different judge. In March 2019, Alaa Abdel Fattah was released from prison after having served a five-year sentence; as part of his verdict however, he continues to report to the police station every night from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. for his five-year probation term.

Legal & Judicial Implications

Throughout the trial, many legally problematic practices were engaged in; defense lawyers accused the interior ministry’s witnesses of perjury and tampering with evidence. Conflicting reports and testimonies were presented; the reliance on these elements in the case to achieve a conviction raises serious questions concerning the fairness of the trial and the right of the defendants to due process. The manner in which evidence was presented also raises major concerns concerning the possibility of manipulation. Furthermore, by presenting private photographs from Alaa Abdel Fattah’s laptop, the prosecution violated his right to privacy. Ultimately, although the majority of defendants were pardoned in this case, such a pardon is a band-aid solution to a deep-seated institutional need for legal and judicial reform. Even beyond this trial, it is vital to regard the five-year probation sentence that Alaa Abdel Fattah continues to serve as a compounded form of punishment. In its implementation, this probation deprives him of his right to movement, his ability to seek gainful employment, and his time with loved ones.