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Alaa Abdel Fattah’s right to fair trial violated: EMHRN - Daily News Egypt

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Alaa Abdel Fattah’s right to fair trial violated: EMHRN

Rights group concerned over judicial independence

Prominent activist Alaa Abdel Fattah. (Photo By Aaron T.Rose\DNE File)
Prominent activist Alaa Abdel Fattah.
(Photo By Aaron T.Rose\DNE File)

Political activist Alaa Abdel Fattah’s right to a fair trial has been violated, said a trial observation report by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Networks (EMHRN) on Monday.

The 44-page report is based on the conclusions of human rights lawyers from Solicitors International Human Rights Group (SIHRG).

In June, Abdel Fattah and 24 others were each sentenced in absentia to 15 years imprisonment and an EGP 100,000 fine. They were also ordered to be put under surveillance for a period of five years after their release.

The 25 accused were found guilty of violating the Protest Law after protesting outside the Shura Council in November 2013.

The EMHRN strongly condemned the lack of respect for fair trial standards as defined by internal law in Egypt, expressing concerns over the independence of the country’s judiciary.

“We are particularly concerned with the blatant lack of independence of the country´s judiciary, which is increasingly instrumentalised to crack down on dissidents, particularly human rights activists and protesters,” EMHRN said.

According to the report, article 184 of the new constitution passed in 2014 dictates that judiciary is independent.

However, the report says the Ministry of Justice is given wide power over judges, including: the right to assign them to courts across the country; the ability to decide which ones are seconded to work in ministries; and the right to make disciplinary actions against judges.

“These powers threaten the judiciary’s independence as they allow the [justice] minister to reward or punish serving judges, and therefore provide an incentive for judges to please the government,” the report said.

“The court has appeared to be partial to the cause of the prosecution,” the report said in relation to the verdict against Abdel Fattah resulting in his continued detention. “This violates the defendant’s right to be heard by an impartial tribunal, as guaranteed in Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).”

The report added that the proceedings undertaken so far also violate the defendants’ right to a timely trial as guaranteed by Article 14.

The delays have been “undue” and “could clearly have been avoided”, the EMHRN said.

The report criticised the in absentia judgment, as well as hearings held during which Abdel Fattah was locked in a soundproof glass room in violation of his right to be present.

EMHRN called on the Egyptian authorities to ensure respect for the right to a fair trial, revoke the Protest Law or amend it in compliance international standards and end arbitrary arrests during peaceful demonstrations.

The rights group further demanded the release of all individuals arbitrarily arrested under the Protest Law, and to consider non-custodial measures to avoid the unnecessary use of imprisonment. They also demanded the use of pre-trail detentions only as a last resort in accordance with the law.

Last month, the Cairo Appeal Court released Abdel Fattah and ordered him to pay bail of a 5,000 EGP bail. The judge presiding over the Shura Council trial ordered Abdel Fattah’s release, before recusing himself from the case.

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