CAIRO: Gammaliya and Manshiyet Nasser Misdemeanor Appeals Court Tuesday postponed to July 21 the retrial of former deputy governor of Cairo and seven other local officials charged with the involuntary manslaughter and injury of the Duweiqa residents.
A verdict is expected to be announced in the next hearing.
“The court might commute the verdict; but I don’t think the defendants will be acquitted,” director of Hisham Mubarak Law Center Ahmed Ragheb told Daily News Egypt.
“Our main argument in the hearings was that the charge against them should have been considered by the court as a felony not a misdemeanor,” he added.
Earlier in May, former deputy governor Mahmoud Yassin had been sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay a LE 5,000 bail to suspend the verdict pending the appeal.
Seven other officials from the district authority as well as the housing and property management departments had been handed down three-year sentences and a LE 3,000 bail each to suspend the sentences for the same charges.
“The previous verdicts were relatively satisfactory to the victims’ families, though many of them have yet to receive compensation whether in the form of money or alternative residential units,” Ragheb noted.
“We as lawyers still believe that the defendants were put to trial as scapegoats for high-profile officials. Yassin himself attempted during the hearings to pin the blame for the accident on the governor,” he added.
In September 2008, huge boulders and rocks crashed down Muqattam Hill in Duweiqa onto Ezbet Bekhit in Manshiyet Nasser neighborhood in east Cairo, home to around a million of the city’s poorest residents. A total of 119 people were killed and 55 others injured in the accident.
Investigations revealed that the officials failed to respond to technical assessments conducted before the accident calling for the evacuation of all residents in the upper part of Duweiqa as well as building a fence around the area to protect it from sewage water.
A committee of experts formed by the prosecution office also attributed the rockslide to the geological nature of the area, which has many fractures, in addition to the dense population and the lack of a proper sewage system. These factors led to water leakages, eventually resulting in the rockslide.
In November 2009, Amnesty International released a report titled “Buried Alive: Trapped by Poverty and Neglect in Cairo’s Informal Settlements” criticizing Egyptian authorities for failing to take effective steps to protect the residents of Duweiqa.
The report called on the Egyptian government to alleviate the threat to the lives of residents of 26 "unsafe areas" in Greater Cairo, and to protect their rights to health and adequate housing.