The Qasr Al-Nil Misdemeanour Court sentenced on Wednesday three protesters to two years of labour and two years under observation for defacing the Tahrir monument, which authorities say was built in memory of those who lost their lives during the 25 January and 30 June revolutions.
The monument, which was constructed over two days in the centre of Tahrir Square, was inaugurated by interim Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi on 18 November 2013. Within 24 hours of the inauguration, the monument had been sprayed with graffiti and badly damaged by demonstrators opposing both the military and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Ahmed Al-Damshiti, Al-Haqanya Law Centre lawyer defending the three men, denied the existence of proof incriminating the defendants. He said that the videos capturing the monument’s destruction, carried out by dozens, does not show any of the defendants.
The investigation carried out by the Central Cairo Prosecution revealed that the three defendants destroyed the monument then took a photo of themselves with the defaced object “to boast about the deed”, reported state-run Al-Ahram.
“The defendants were in Tahrir Square on 19 November to commemorate the second anniversary of the Mohamed Mahmoud Street clashes,” Al-Damshiti said, denying that they were involved with defacing of the monument the previous day.
Around 50 people lost their lives during deadly clashes in Mohamed Mahmoud Street in 2011.
Al-Damshiti appealed the verdict on Wednesday. He said that during the primary trial, although he demanded that witnesses be summoned to court to testify, the judge refrained from doing so.
“I’m optimistic about the outcome of the appeal if the witnesses are summoned,” Al-Damshiti said.
Although videos documenting the defacing of the monument show dozens of demonstrators taking part in the process, the police only arrested the three defendants. Al-Damshiti said the police pressed charges against them in order to close the case and not because they had solid evidence against them.
The three defendants are 6 April democratic front member Sherif Elsirfy, Ahmed Abdel Salam and Michael Boutros. At the time of his arrest, the Ministry of Interior published two images of Elsirfy: the first showing him smiling and the second is what appears to be him attempting to cause damage to the monument.
Boutros was found guilty and sentenced to six months in prison on Tuesday by the Qasr Al-Nil Court for burning the Egyptian flag during the 19 November protests.
Boutros’ sentence was also appealed on Wednesday. Al-Damshiti denied the existence of any videos showing Boutros burning the flag.
The Egyptian flag and the national anthem are considered a “state symbol” in Egyptian law.
Article 223 of the draft constitution states: “Desecrating Egypt’s flag is a crime punishable by law”.
On 31 December, Hazem El-Beblawi’s cabinet approved of a bill criminalising the desecration of the Egyptian flag and dishonouring the national anthem. The bill sets the punishment of either to a maximum of one year in prison and/or a maximum fine of EGP 30,000.