The Cairo Criminal Court released Sunday the reasoning for its verdict on more than 20 persons accused of protesting in front of the Shura Council.
Two of the defendants, including renowned political activist and blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah, were sentenced to five years in prison, while the other defendants were sentenced to three years and an EGP 100,000 fine. The defendants were charged with violating the Protest Law and disturbing national security.
The final verdict was issued one day later after President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi announced in a speech that he will release some political detainees.
In its report, the court stated that the protest law issued in November 2013 aimed at regulating protests in order to “retain security across the country and protect the citizens”. It requires that any group wishing to protest to apply for a security permit from the nearest police station.
In a similar context, the court mentioned that some people tried to violate the law, referring to the protesters who took to the streets one month after issuing the law and protested in front of the Shura Council. The court said they did not have any permits, and that they “defied the state sovereignty”.
In December 2013, the group of activists protested in front of the Shura Council against an article in the constitutional draft issued by the former interim government that stipulates the referral of civilians to military courts.
The court relied in its verdict on the tweets and posts by the organisers for the protest on social media platforms. It quoted Abdel Fattah as saying: “Protest by No for military trials group, your attendance is really important.”
During the year and half-long court hearing for the defendants and their lawyer, Abdel Fattah refused to comment on the tweets, saying: “It is not convicting evidence that should be used in the case.”
Furthermore, the court shed light on the conflict between the police and protesters, saying: “The police warned the protesters to leave, but when they refused the civil security forces started dispersing them.”
Several videos circulated on social media platforms at the time, documenting the dispersal by the police. The videos indicated violent tactics allegedly used by policemen in the dispersal, including hitting men and grabbing women by their hair. Several people were arrested on the same day for investigation, some of whom were released shortly afterwards on the same day, while the 22 others remained imprisoned until present.
In June, Abdel Fattah and 24 others were initially sentenced in absentia to 15 years imprisonment, as well as an EGP 100,000 fine, and put under police observation after release, on counts of violating the Protest Law. They were charged, one day after its ratification, with acquiring weapons during a protest, illegal assembly, blocking roads, and attacking a police officer and stealing his radio.
The Cairo Appeals Court later released Abdel Fattah on bail, after the judge stepped down from the case. However, just one month later, Abdel Fattah was once again behind bars.
Alaa, 32, and an activist since 2005, is often dubbed as the “detainee of all eras”. He has a long history of detentions under different authorities, including an arrest in 2006 during Mubarak’s rule, for organising protests against the judiciary. During the transitional period in 2011 after the 25 JanuaryRevolution, he was charged with involvement in a “terrorist plot”. During Islamist president Mohamed Morsi’s one-year rule, he was arrested on charges of insulting Islam.
Following the 30 June uprisings and the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood regime, weekly clashes took place between Brotherhood supporters and security forces. The former interim cabinet issued the controversial Protest Law, in November 2013. Since the law was enacted, it has been used to build several cases against students and activists, on charges of “illegal assembly”.
The defendants in the Shura Council trial included mostly students and young people, as well as reportedly including a passerby who was in the vicinity of the protest and intervened after he saw the dispersal scene.