Egypt – United Nations Working Group On Arbitrary Detention Calls for the Release of Three Prominent Activists

On 3 December 2015, on the basis of a submission from Alkarama, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) adopted Opinion n49/2015, in which it recognised the arbitrary nature of the detention of prominent Egyptian blogger Ahmed Saad Douma Saad and of Egypt’s April 6 Youth Movement co-founders Ahmed Maher Ibrahim Tantawy and Mohamed Adel Fahmi. Consequently, the WGAD asked the Egyptian authorities to immediately release the three young men and to grant them their enforceable right to remedy.

On 26 November 2013, Mohamed participated in a peaceful demonstration in front of the Shura Council, Egypt’s upper house of Parliament, to protest against the inclusion in the 2014 draft Constitution of provisions allowing for the referral of civilians before military courts as well as the adoption on 25 November of restrictive law n107 of 2013 on the Right to Public Meetings, Processions and Peaceful Demonstrations. Since its adoption, this law has been used as a “tool for cracking down on peaceful demonstrations” by placing “extremely broad restrictions to the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” according to the WGAD’s opinion.

Following this peaceful demonstration, Ahmed Maher was summoned by the authorities and on 30 November 2013, went to Abdeen Courthouse to turn himself in, accompanied by Ahmed Douma and other peaceful supporters. There, Ahmed Maher was arrested and placed in pre-trial detention in Tora prison, under accusations of “participation to an unauthorised protest”. Then, on 3 December, Ahmed Douma was arrested as well and indicted. Eventually, the three men were charged with “taking part to unauthorised protests”, “disturbing public order” and “assaulting police officers” and their trial scheduled in front of Abdeen Misdemeanor Court for 8 December 2013.

In the meantime, the court requested that Mohamed be arrested but the hearings nevertheless started in his absence. During these hearings, the lawyers’ defendants reported that only prosecution’s witnesses were allowed to deliver testimonies while allegations of mistreatment made by the three defendants were dismissed by the judge. Eventually, Mohamed was arrested on 18 December and remained detained incommunicado until the three men’s judgment, on 22 December 2013.

On that day, Abdeen Misdemeanor Court sentenced the three young men to three years in prison and a 50,000 Egyptian pounds fine, which was confirmed in appeal on 7 April 2014 by Abdeen Misdemeanor Appeals Court. Different irregularities were also identified during the appeal’s process and particularly that the hearings were held in Tora Police Academy, a facility that operates under the supervision of the Ministry of Interior. The WGAD considered that this practice characterised a breach of “the principle of separation of powers” between the executive and the judiciary. Eventually, the Court for Urgent Matters banned April 6 Youth Movement, a youth group co-founded by Mohamed and Ahmed Maher that was particularly active during the 2011 revolution, confirming the political nature of the three men’s prosecution and sentencing.

While they remain detained in Tora prison, the Working Group considered that the three men’s detentions are in breach of their “right to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly”, guaranteed under articles 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and to which Egypt is a party since 1982. Added to different flaws found in their trials, the WGAD declared that their detentions are arbitrary and consequently asked for their immediate release.

Alkarama thus urges the Egyptian authorities to implement the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s opinion; to immediately release the three men and to grant them their enforceable right to remedy. The authorities should also release all individuals who have been indicted and sentenced under law n107 of 2013, guarantee that no one is at risk of arrest for expressing his opinions and amend this restrictive law in order to put it in line with its own Constitution and international obligations.

Source: AllAfrica