Egypt: Conditional release of Alaa Abdel Fatah

29/03/2019
Urgent Appeal

New information
EGY 002 / 1113 / OBS 095.8
Conditional release/
Judicial harassment
Egypt
March 29, 2019

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and, has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Egypt.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the conditional release of Mr. Alaa Abdel Fatah, a civil and political rights defender, blogger and member of the “No to Military Trials for Civilians” movement [1].

According to the information received, on March 28, 2019, Mr. Alaa Abdel Fattah was released under probation from Cairo’s Tora prison, at the term of his five-year sentence. Mr. Alaa Abdel Fattah still has to serve a five-year police surveillance sentence and will thus have to spend all his nights at his local police station for the next five years.

Mr. Alaa Abdel Fattah was arrested on November 26, 2013. On February 23, 2015, after a year-long trial, the Cairo Criminal Court sentenced him to five years imprisonment, five years of police surveillance, and a fine of 100,000 EGP (approx. 5,000 EUR) on charges of “organizing a protest without a permit”, “organizing an illegal assembly that endangers public security”, “blocking roads”, “assembling illegally”, and “attacking and injuring a public servant” (see background information).

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) determined that Mr. Alaa Abdel Fatah’s detention was "arbitrary" [2] at its 75th session in April 2016. The WGAD recommended the Egyptian government to immediately release Mr. Alaa Abdel Fattah and provide him with an adequate reparation.

The Observatory welcomes the conditional release of Mr. Alaa Abdel Fattah but recalls that he should never have been imprisoned, as his detention was arbitrary and merely aiming at preventing him from carrying out legitimate human rights activities. The Observatory urges the Egyptian authorities to unconditionally lift the five-year probation sentence against him, and to end any acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against him and all the human rights defenders in Egypt.

Background information:

On November 26, 2013 at least nine members of the “No to Military Trials for Civilians” group, including Ms. Mona Seif, co-founder of the “No to Military Trials for Civilians” movement, nine journalists and seven lawyers were arrested by police forces in Cairo, as they were demonstrating. In an effort to pressure the members of the Constitutional Committee to vote against Article 198 of the draft Constitution – an article that allowed for civilian trials before military courts, the “No to Military Trials for Civilians” group had called for protests to be held on November 26, ahead of the vote, in front of the Shura Council (where the committee holds its meetings). Tens of protesters joined the call at 4pm on Kasr Al Aini street, however thirty minutes later, security forces issued a warning to the protesters to immediately end their protest, which reportedly remained peaceful. The protesters refused to leave and security forces opened water canons against them. Security forces and policemen in plain cloth simultaneously arrested protesters and journalists, in what is know as the Shura Council protest case.

On November 28, 2013, security operatives raided Mr. Abdel Fatah’s residence. Although they produced no search warrant, they searched the premises and carted away computers and telephones. When challenged for not being authorised to conduct a search, they beat Mr. Abdel Fatah and his wife up while their two year-old son slept in the next room. Egyptian authorities issued a warrant for Mr. Abdel Fatah’s arrest after they accused him of incitement and involvement in calls to protest (Shura Council protest case). Mr. Abdel Fatah was then placed under pre-trial detention.

On December 9, 2013, Mr. Abdel Fatah and 24 other individuals were referred to the Cairo Criminal Court with charges of “blocking roads”, “assembling illegally”, “protesting without a permit”, “acquiring weapons during a protest”, and “attacking and injuring a public servant” and “stealing his personal wireless device” in relation to the Shura Council protest case. 23 were released on bail on December 4, 2013. Mr. Abdel Fatah and another individual arrested in the vicinity of the demonstration, Mr. Ahmed Abdel Rahman, were detained in Tora Prison. The court did not set a trial date until mid-March 2014.

On January 5, 2014, North Giza Criminal Court sentenced Mr. Alaa Abdel Fatah, Ms. Mona Seif and Mr. Ahmed Abdallah, member of the 6 April Youth Movement and co-founder of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, to a suspended sentence of one year in prison on charges of “arson”, “theft”, “damage to property”, “violence” and “danger to public safety”. The charges were based on allegations that Mr. Abdel Fattah, Ms. Seif and Mr. Abdallah would have participated in the attack on the campaign headquarters of former presidential candidate, Mr. Ahmed Shafiq, on May 28, 2012 (Ahmed Shafiq case). The jail term was suspended for three years and the conviction was based solely on the evidence of so-called eyewitnesses who were either agents of the government or persons with criminal records or criminal investigations pending. Furthermore, only one of the said eyewitnesses was available for cross-examination and he testified that he did not see Mr. Fatah in possession of any weapons or committing violence. He also admitted that he could not recognise the other defendants. The three human rights defenders filed an appeal against their sentence.

On March 23, 2014, the 16th terrorism circuit of South Cairo Criminal Court ordered the provisional release of Messrs. Alaa Abdel Fatah and Ahmed Abdel Rahman on a bail of LE 10,000 each (approximately EUR 1,042).

A hearing took place on April 6, 2014 during which the Prosecution presented testimonies and evidence against Messrs. Alaa Abdel Fatah and Ahmed Abdel Rahman as well as the other 23 individuals.

On May 25, 2014, the judge failed to come to the hearing and the case was postponed to June 11, 2014. On June 11, 2014, the 16th terrorism circuit of South Cairo Criminal Court sentenced in absentia Messrs. Alaa Abdel Fatah and Ahmed Abdel Rahman, as well as the other 23 individuals, to 15 years of prison, a fine of LE 100,000 (approximately EUR 10,420) and five years of police surveillance following their release on charges of “blocking roads”, “assembling illegally”, “protesting without a permit”, “acquiring weapons during a protest”, “attacking and injuring a public servant” and “stealing his personal wireless device”, in relation to the Shura Council protest case. Messrs. Alaa Abdel Fatah, Ahmed Abdel Rahman together with a third person were detained immediately after the verdict. The three defendants were sentenced in absentia despite the fact that they were present at the Police Academy where the trial took place, though they were not allowed to enter the court room in time for the hearing.

On September 15, 2014, Messrs. Alaa Abdel Fatah and Ahmed Abdel Rahman, who were facing retrial on the above-mentioned 15-year prison sentence, were released on a 5,000 EGP (540 EUR) bail along with another defendant. They were released on the same day.
During this same court hearing, the judge presiding over the retrial stepped down at the request of defence lawyers. The recusal was caused by an incident which occurred during the previous court session. Indeed, on September 10, Egyptian prosecutors presented a personal home video of Mr. Abdel Fatah’s wife dancing as evidence against him. The video was allowed to be shown at the hearing but, following his lawyer’s objection, it was considered by the judge as irrelevant to the case and as a violation of the constitutional right to privacy. The judge referred the video to the Prosecution to investigate those responsible for including it within the evidence file. The rest of the evidence presented consisted of video clips showing various protests without scenes or footage of displaying Mr. Abdel Fatah or any other defendant in the case.

On October 27, 2014, during the first hearing of the retrial, the judge ordered the detention of all those present and postponed the trial to November 11. While all present defendants were transferred to Tora prison, Mr. Alaa Abdel Fatah’s whereabouts remained unknown. His family later found out that he had been transferred to Tora prison, but separated from the other defendants.

On November 11, 2014, the second hearing of the retrial of Messrs. Alaa Abdel Fatah and Ahmed Abdel Rahman on the 15-year prison sentence was held at Police Academy in Torah.
The court viewed several video evidence presented by the prosecution as well as one video presented by one of the defendants.

Several other hearings were held until February 23, 2015.

On February 23, 2015, the Cairo Criminal Court sentenced Mr. Alaa Abdel Fatah and Mr. Ahmed Abdel Rahman to five years imprisonment, five years of police surveillance, and a fine of 100,000 EGP (approx. 10,000 EUR). Mr. Alaa Abdel Fatah was sentenced on charges of “organizing a protest without a permit”, “organizing an illegal assembly that endangers public security”, “blocking roads”, “assembling illegally”, “attacking and injuring a public servant”. Mr. Ahmed Abdel Rahman was sentenced on charges of “acquiring weapons during a protest”, “blocking roads”, “assembling illegally”, and “attacking and injuring a public servant”. The Court sentenced 19 other individuals to three years imprisonment, three years police surveillance and a fine of 100,000 EGP (approx. 10,000 EUR) for “blocking roads”, “assembling illegally”, and “attacking and injuring a public servant”. The remaining persons who failed to attend the retrial had the first-instance sentence of 15 years imprisonment upheld. The Court acquitted all of the defendants on charges of “theft (see background information). Defense lawyers announced that they will appeal the sentence before the Court of Cassation.

In October 2017, eighteen of the protesters were pardoned by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, but Mr. Alaa Abdel Fatah was not among them.

On 8 November, 2017, the Egyptian Court of Cassation upheld the five-year sentence of Mr. Alaa Abdel Fatah.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Egypt asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Alaa Abdel Fatah and all human rights defenders in Egypt ;
ii. Drop all the charges and unconditionally release Mr. Alaa Abdel Fatah and all human rights defenders currently in detention since their detention is arbitrary as it seems to only aim at curtailing their human rights activities ;
iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Abdel Fatah, and all human rights defenders in Egypt ;
iv. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular with its Articles 1, 5(a) and 12.2 ;
v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Egypt.

Addresses:

· President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, H.E. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Fax: +202 2391 1441. Email: p.spokesman@op.gov.eg, Twitter: @AlsisiOfficial

· Prime Minister, Mr. Mustafa Kemal Madbouly Mohamed. Email: pm@cabinet.gov.eg 

· Minister of the Interior, Mr. Mahmoud Tawfik, Email: center@iscmi.gov.eg

· Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohamed Hossam Abdel-Rahim, Fax: +202 2795 8103 


· Minister of Social Solidarity, Mrs. Ghada Wali, Tel: +202 333 75420

· Public Prosecutor, Counsellor Nabeel Sadek, Fax: +202 2577 4716Head of the Egyptian parliament’s Human Rights Committee, Mr. Alaa Abed, Email: humanrightscomplaints@parliament.gov.eg

· Mr. Mohamed Fayeq, President of the National Council For Human Rights, Fax: + 202 25747497 / 25747670. Email: nchr@nchr.org.eg

· H.E. Mr. Alaa Youssef, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Egypt to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: mission.egypt@bluewin.ch

· Embassy of Egypt in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 675.58.88; Email: embassy.egypt@skynet.be

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Egypt in your respective country. 
 
***
Geneva-Paris, March 29, 2019
 
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
 
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
 
To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
Tel and fax FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

[1] This movement was set up in 2011 and denounced human rights abuses committed in particular by security forces and the army during the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) after the fall of former President Mubarak.
[2] A/HRC/WGAD/2016, Opinion No.6/2016concerning Alaa Ahmed Seif al Islam Abd El Fattah (Arab Republic of Egypt) : https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Detention/Opinions/Session75/Opinion_2016_6_Egypt.pdf

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