Egypt: Provisional release of Mr. Alaa Abdel Fatah and Mr. Ahmed Abdel Rahman

24/03/2014
Urgent Appeal

New information
EGY 002 / 1113 / OBS 095.3
Release / Judicial harassment
Egypt
March 24, 2014

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), 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 provisional release and ongoing judicial harassment faced by Mr. Alaa Abdel Fatah, civil and political rights activist, blogger and member of the “No to Military Trials for Civilians” movement [1], and Mr. Ahmed Abdel Rahman [2].

According to the information received, on March 23, 2014, the 16th terrorism circuit of South Cairo Criminal Court [3] 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).

The hearing of the case was adjourned to April 6, 2014, when the Prosecution is going to present testimonies and evidence against Messrs. Alaa Abdel Fatah and Ahmed Abdel Rahman as well as 23 other individuals accused 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 a case connected to a dispersed Shura Council protest of November 26, 2013 (See background information). They face up to five years in prison.

The Observatory welcomes the provisional release of Messrs. Alaa Abdel Fatah and Ahmed Abdel Rahman and thanks all the persons, institutions and organisations who intervened in their favour. However, the Observatory regrets that the two were arbitrarily detained for nearly four months, and remains deeply concerned about their ongoing judicial harassment. The Observatory considers this trial to amount to judicial harassment for their activities as human rights defenders, and calls upon the Egyptian judicial authorities to unconditionally drop all charges.

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 near Tahrir Square. In an effort to pressure the members of the Constitutional Committee to vote against Article 198, 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.

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 the calls for protests by the “No to Military Trials for Civilians” movement, which was protesting Article 198 of the draft constitution that allows for civilian trials before military courts. 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”. 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, a group which documents and denounces human rights violations 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. Fatah, Ms. Seif and Mr. Abdallah participated in the attack on the campaign headquarters of former presidential candidate, Mr. Ahmed Shafiq, on May 28, 2012. The jail term was suspended for three years and therefore should any of the defendants be found guilty of additional charges within this time, this one-year term would be added onto any subsequent sentences. The three human rights defenders filed an appeal against their sentence.

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 with criminal investigations pending against them. 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.

On March 19, 2014, the prison authorities moved Mr. Alaa Abdel Fatah from his cell to an unknown location. The authorities then failed to explain the rationale of this unusual measure and failed to account for his whereabouts. His lawyer then found out after he met him on March 22 that he was moved by the prison police to a “disciplinary” cell and returned to his normal cell on March 21.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Egypt asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Abdel Fatah, Mr. Ahmed Abdel Rahman, Ms. Mona Seif and Mr. Ahmed Abdallah and all human rights defenders in Egypt;

ii. Order an immediate, thorough, transparent investigation into the above-mentioned allegations of ill-treatments against Mr. Abdel Fatah and his wife in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and apply them the sanctions provided by the law;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Abdel Fatah, Mr. Ahmed Abdel Rahman, Ms. Mona Seif and Mr. Ahmed Abdallah 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 Article 1, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”;
- its Article 5 (a): “For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels (a) To meet or assemble peacefully”;

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. Adly Mansour, Abedine Palace, Cairo, Egypt, Fax: +202 23901998
· Prime Minister Mr. Ibrahim Mehleb, Magles El Shaab Street, Kasr El Aini Street, Cairo, Egypt. Fax: + 202 2735 6449 / 27958016. Email: primemin@idsc.gov.eg
· Minister of the Interior, General Mohamed Ibrahim, Ministry of the Interior, El-Sheikh Rihan Street, Bab al-Louk, Cairo, Egypt, E-mail: moi1@idsc.gov.eg, Fax: +202 2579 2031 / 2794 5529
· Minister of Justice, Mr. Neir Othman, Ministry of Justice, Magles El Saeb Street, Wezaret Al Adl, Cairo, Egypt, E-mail: mojeb@idsc.gov.eg, Fax: +202 2795 8103
· Public Prosecutor, Counsellor Hisham Barakat Dar al-Qadha al-Ali, Ramses Street, Cairo, Egypt, Fax: +202 2577 4716
· Mr. Mohamed Fayeq, President of the National Council For Human Rights, Fax: + 202 25747497 / 25747670. Email: nchr@nchr.org.eg
· H.E. Ms. Wafaa Bassim, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Egypt to the United Nations in Geneva, 49 avenue Blanc, 1202 Genève, Switzerland, Email: mission.egypt@ties.itu.int, Fax: +41 22 738 44 15
· Embassy of Egypt in Brussels, 19 avenue de l’Uruguay, 1000 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.

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