The Qasr Al-Nil Misdemeanour Court acquitted 33 defendants who were charged with unlicensed protesting and previously sentenced to two years in prison.
The 33 were sentenced for their participation in protests demanding the annulment of the maritime demarcation agreement between Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Defence lawyer Mohamed Abdel Aziz of Al-Haqanya Law Centre announced the news late Saturday night following appeals session held at Tora Police Institute. Journalist Ali Abdeen ‘Beeka’ was among those acquitted from charges.
“The appeals session was postponed several times for the court to hear testimonies of seven police officers. The defence lawyers argued that the procedures of arrest and investigations were illegal, that the case was fabricated and without real evidence. The defendants were also accused of participating in an assembly which endangers public safety and order and publishing false news,” Al-Haqanya reported Saturday.
An appeal has been filed for 33 out of a total of 51 defendants. On 14 May, the court’s initial ruling came after three hearing sessions and was the first among several cases related to the protests.
Al-Haqanya’s lawyer Sarah Rabea previously told Daily News Egypt that an appeal was filed only for defendants who were present during the 14 May session, as 18 people could not appeal the ruling they received in absentia, unless they present themselves to the court to obtain a re-trial.
Several demonstrations broke out on 25 April, coinciding with Sinai Liberation Day, in which protesters chanted that the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir belonged to Egypt and should not be ceded to Saudi Arabia.
Met with a severe security crackdown, the police detained dozens of youth and utilised quick trials and swift prison terms for over a 100. More than 40 journalists were arrested on the same day during their coverage of the protests but were released shortly after. Abdeen was among several journalists who remained in detention.
Another 25 April protest case examined by the Dokki and Agouza Misdemeanor Appeals Court resulted in the abolishment of the five-year prison sentence handed to 47 protesters charged with illegally demonstrating. The court, however, ordered a total fine of EGP 4.7m, which amounts to EGP 100,000 per detainee, refusing to break the fines into instalments.
Activists launched an online campaign to raise funds that would contribute to bailing out the defendants.
Meanwhile, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi – who had earlier stated he rejected arguments against the islands’ agreement – claimed in a Friday interview that he accepted dissidents voices on the matter, especially among the youth, provided they express their views in a “legal manner”.
Protests are banned under Egypt’s Protest Law of 2013, conditioned by prior approval from the Ministry of Interior.