The Cairo Criminal Court sentenced political activist Ahmed Douma to three years hard labour for being in contempt of the court, during a session of his ongoing trial relating to the “cabinet clashes” in 2011.
Douma – a prominent political activist – was also fined EGP 10,000 “for insulting the judiciary” after a tense exchange with the judge.
The trial is being presided over by Judge Nagy Shehata, who according to eyewitness Sameh Samir, expressed political opinions during the session. Samir said Douma requested to ask the judge a question and Shehata agreed.
Douma asked Shehata whether he has a Facebook account, to which the judge reacted by charging Douma of insulting the court and handing him the sentence. This came despite Douma saying he did not mean to insult the court.
Douma’s defence team was not present during the court session, because of a prior decision to withdraw due to “violations against defence rights” during the trial. The Lawyers’ Syndicate also issued a memorandum rejecting the presence of any of its members in the trial.
However, a defence lawyer, delegated by the court appeared in the trial to represent Douma.
Douma said he rejected the defence delegated by the court and rejected defending himself, saying that the results are going to be the same. He asked the court to speed up the issuance of the verdict, saying that it is clear that the court already reached a conclusion.
Douma’s health is deteriorating, said Samir. Douma suffers from several health conditions, including stomach ulcers. Douma started a full hunger strike on 28 August, but reportedly ended it after his health problems began to increase.
Douma and 268 other defendants in the case are facing charges of attacking the cabinet building and security personnel as well as setting fire to the Scientific Institute in Cairo in 2011. The trial was postponed to 4 February.
The 2011 clashes occurred after demonstrators organised a sit-in at the cabinet headquarters protesting the appointment of Kamal El-Ganzoury as prime minister by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF). The military police attempted to disperse the sit-in, resulting in deadly violence which lasted for four days.
Shehata handed down 188 death sentences last week, in connection with a deadly attack on Kerdasa’s police station in August 2013. Human Rights Watch made a specific reference to the judge, in a statement on this case.
In November, Shehata referred two defence lawyers, Ragia Omran and Khaled Ali, to prosecution for disrupting the trial proceedings in separate cases.
In June, Shehata sentenced three Al Jazeera English journalists to seven years in jail, with an extra three years for the Egyptian defendant Baher Mohamed for possession of a bullet casing. The trial received global attention and the journalists were sentenced based on evidence that included a pop song, images of one of the defendant’s parents, video footage that was unrelated to Egypt, and inaudible sound recordings.