Egypt: Continued arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Ms. Mahienour El-Massry

21/07/2014
Urgent Appeal
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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
EGY 001 / 0514 / OBS 045.2
Arbitrary detention / Sentencing /
Judicial harassment /
Repression of peaceful protest
Egypt
July 21, 2014

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the continued arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Ms. Mahienour El-Massry, a human rights lawyer known for her activism in favour of judicial independence and prisoners’ rights by organising peaceful protests, support activities for political prisoners and using social media to denounce human rights violations, following her participation in a peaceful protest aimed at denouncing police repression in Egypt.

According to the information received, on July 20, 2014, after successive adjournments, the Sidi Gaber Appeal Misdemeanour Court in Alexandria decided to reduce the two-year jail sentence against Ms. Mahienour El-Massry for “protest without a permit” and “assaulting security forces” to six months.

However, the Court did not reduce the amount of her fine that remains unchanged at EGP 50,000 (approximately EUR 5,143). Ms. Mahienour El-Massry is detained in Damanhour prison since May 20, 2014 and has already completed two months of her sentence.

Moreover, Ms. El-Massry is also facing trial on separate charges for an incident that occurred in March 2013 (see background information below). The case was heard on July 21, 2014 and at this date the judge postponed it again to October 13, 2014.

The case of Ms. Mahienour Al Masry is illustrative of a wider repression campaign targeting human rights defenders opposing the current regime in the country since the “Protest Law” [1] was passed in November 2013. This controversial law bans gathering of 10 or more people without a permit issued by the authorities. Based on this law, dozens of human rights defenders are arbitrarily detained and prosecuted.

The Observatory expresses its concern regarding the ongoing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Ms. Mahienour El-Massry, which seems to aim only at preventing her from carrying out her peaceful human rights activities, and calls upon the Egyptian judicial authorities to immediately and unconditionally release her.

Background information:

On January 2, 2014, Alexandria Manshiya Misdemeanour Court sentenced in absentia Ms. Mahienour El-Massry and seven other members of the political group “Revolutionary Socialists” [2], including human rights lawyer Mr. Hassan Mustafa [3], to two years’ imprisonment and a fine of EGP 50,000 for “protest without a permit” and “assaulting security forces” following their participation in a peaceful protest on December 2, 2013 to denounce police violence and in particular Khaled Saeed murder’s retrial. Khaled Saeed was killed by police forces on June 6, 2012 and subsequently became a symbol of police repression during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. Ms. Mahienour El-Massry failed to appear as she had not been informed of the date of the hearing.

In a separate incident, on May 8, 2014, Ms. El-Massry was referred to court on charges of “assaulting security forces” after after, in March 2013, she and other lawyers went to Raml police station to provide legal assistance to three activists who were arrested and sent to the police by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. The lawyers were attacked by the police in the police station, and Ms. El-Massry was detained briefly before the Prosecution decided to release her and the others. The trial was then postponed several times following the resignation of the appointed judge resigned from the bench.

On May 20, 2014, the Sidi Gaber Misdemeanour Court in Alexandria rejected the objection filed by Ms. Mahienour El-Massry regarding the sentence issued against her in absentia. Ms. Mahienour El-Massry was immediately detained following the hearing.

The appeal to the May 20 decision of Ms. Mahienour El-Massry was scheduled for June 26, 2014. According to her lawyers, the appeal date was too far away in violation of criminal law procedural provisions. Therefore, the lawyers filed on May 22, 2014 a request for an earlier appeal date but that was not granted.

On May 22, 2014, the Egyptian security forces violently repressed participants to a solidarity march organised outside of the headquarters of Egyptian Center for Economic & Social Rights (ECESR) in Alexandria, following a press conference organised to show support for Mahienour El-Massry, Once the march ended, the security forces stormed into ECESR’s headquarters two times, smashed its contents and arrested its employers. Several female protesters were sexually harassed by security forces. In the meantime, activists who participated in the march were chased on the side streets.

Several human rights defenders and political activists were beaten and arrested by the police. They were detained in Alexandria Security Directorate. Then they were released after seizing the case’s file of Ms. Mahienour El-Massry along with the clearance that was issued by security bodies to some activists in order to visit the activist in the prison. Some other documents were also impounded.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Egypt asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Mahienour El-Massry and all human rights defenders in Egypt;

ii. Release Ms. Mahienour El-Massry immediately and unconditionally, as well as 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 Ms. Mahienour El-Massry 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 6(a), which foresees that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms”;
- 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. Mahfouz Saber, 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: egyptembassy@embassyofegypt.be

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Egypt in your respective country.

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