In their first court session following over three months of detention, the judge ruled to release activist Alaa Abd El Fattah and defendant Ahmed Abdel Rahman on bail pending investigations into charges they face relating to their participation in a protest held in front of the Shura Council in late November.
The trial, held at the Police Academy at Tora prison, was adjourned, with April 6 set as the date for the next hearing.
A Mada Masr reporter in the courtroom said that Abd El Fattah appeared to be in good spirits, smiling throughout the session. He greeted his fellow defendants in the Shura Council case who had been released earlier but came to the court session to support him and Abdel Rahman.
Defense lawyers argued that there was no reason to keep the defendants in custody throughout the investigations and requested to be given access to the evidence against them. The courtroom erupted in cheers of celebration when the judge ruled to release the two defendants.
Following the release order, Abd El Fattah's father, Ahmed Seif El Islam, said that while his son is out of detention now, he still will not be completely free as he will still face the violations of freedom that all Egyptians are forced to live with. He added that the decision to release Abd El Fattah, just like the decision to detain him, was political rather than legal.
Police attacked and arrested 50 people in a protest organized by the No to Military Trials group in November, days after the passing of a new law limiting the right to assemble. Twenty-four people were held in custody and an arrest warrant was issued for Abd El Fattah in connection with the case.
Abd El Fattah was arrested after police raided his home on November 28. All other 24 defendants were released pending investigations except for Ahmed Abdel Rahman who remained in prison, along with Abd El Fattah, for over three months without a trial date.
In December, the prosecution announced that the 25 would face charges and referred the case to criminal court.
All 25 face charges of protesting without permit, assaulting a police officer, obstructing traffic and destroying public property. Abd El Fattah faces an additional charge of organizing the protest, even though the No to Military Trials group had claimed responsibility for it.
Abd El Fattah’s family had announced on Wednesday that he was removed from his cell to an undisclosed location.
Seif El Islam, revealed the details of his son's disappearance on Sunday, after visiting him the day before.
According to Seif El Islam, Tora prison administration decided to transfer Abd El Fattah to the disciplinary ward on Wednesday in a cell with no light, covers or newspapers, without officially registering this disciplinary measure. After Abd El Fattah started a hunger strike and news of his disappearance was leaked, he was returned to his cell on Friday.
Abd El Fattah’s family also reported that some previously agreed-upon privileges were being taken away from him and other inmates. The prison administration refused to deliver letters or books to Abd El Fattah and others on Saturday and it also cut short the exercise time that inmates are usually allowed.
Other activists have reported violations and abuses against them during incarceration in recent months.
Activist Khaled El Sayed, arrested in protests marking the anniversary of the January 25 revolution and recently released pending trial, wrote a testimony detailing abuses that he and other detainees faced in police stations and in prison, including electrocution.
Two other prominent activists, Ahmed Douma and April 6 founder Ahmed Maher were beaten by police as they entered Abdeen court for their hearing earlier this month.