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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 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 surveillance. Nineteen other defendants were sentenced to three years in prison, an LE100,000 fine, and three years of surveillance. Upon final review, the five-year prison sentence of Abdel Fattah was affirmed 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. Although a retrial was granted, the defendants were ordered detained during this time. During the trial of the case, the prosecutor presented private photographs from the laptop of Alaa Abdel Fattah; multiple pieces of suspect, contradictory evidence were also furthered 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 affirmed 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.

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 such to achieve a conviction raises serious questions on the fairness of the trial. The manner in which evidence was presented also raises major concerns on the possibility for manipulation. Further, by presenting private photographs off of Alaa Abdel Fattah’s laptop, the prosecution violated Abdel Fattah’s right to privacy. Finally, the fact that the defendants were ordered detained despite the decision to conduct a retrial is considered an unnecessary and unfairly punitive measure taken by the state against the peaceful protesters. Ultimately, although the majority of defendants were pardoned in this case, a pardon is a band-aid solution to a deep-seated institutional need for legal and judicial reform.