Egypt: Sentencing to 15 years of prison of Mr. Alaa Abdel Fatah and Mr. Ahmed Abdel Rahman

11/06/2014
Urgent Appeal
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New information
EGY 002 / 1113 / OBS 095.4
Sentencing / Arbitrary arrest
Egypt
June 11, 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 sentencing to 15 years of prison of 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 June 11, 2014, the 16th terrorism circuit of South Cairo Criminal Court [3] sentenced in absentia Messrs. Alaa Abdel Fatah and Ahmed Abdel Rahman, as well as 23 other 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 a case connected to a dispersed Shura Council protest of November 26, 2013 (See background information).

At the time of publication of this appeal, Messrs. Alaa Abdel Fatah and Ahmed Abdel Rahman were detained immediately after the verdict in the police academy pending their transfer to prison.

The Observatory condemns the sentencing and arbitrary detention of Messrs. Alaa Abdel Fatah and Ahmed Abdel Rahman, which merely aim at curtailing their human rights activities, and calls upon the Egyptian authorities to release them immediately and unconditionally. The Observatory also expresses its concern for the increasing criminalisation of 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 (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, 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 (Ahmed Shafiq case). 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 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. The three human rights defenders filed an appeal against their sentence.

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.

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).

An 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 23 other individuals. The defendants lawyers also filed a petition to disqualify Judge Mohammed El-Fikki, the judge presiding the trial. Indeed as Mr. Abdel Fattah had filed against this judge a complaint for alleged election fraud in 2005, the judge lacked impartiality. The case was then adjourned until the court decides on the request for recusal.

On May 17, 2014, the Cairo Appeals Court ruled that Judge Mohammed El-Fikki could continue presiding over Mr. Alaa Abdel Fattah´s trial, despite the animosity between the two men. Mr. Alaa Abdel-Fattah was also fined LE 5,000 (approximately 521 Euros). The next hearing was scheduled to take place on May 25, 2014. On that day, the judge failed to come to the hearing and the case was postponed to June 11, 2014.

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, Mr. Ahmed Abdel Rahman, Ms. Mona Seif and Mr. Ahmed Abdallah and all human rights defenders in Egypt;
ii. Release Mr. Alaa Abdel Fatah, Mr. Ahmed Abdel Rahman and all human rights defenders currently in detention immediately and unconditionally since their detention is arbitrary as it seems to only aim at curtailing their human rights activities;
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”;

- its Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration” ;

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, 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 Moustafa, 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. Nayer Abdel-Moneim 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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