Judicial proceedings in the case of the independent NGO, the Belady Foundation for the support of street children were adjourned for the seventh time on Saturday – delaying these proceedings by another six months, until November 19.
The eight defendants face seven charges, ranging from running an unlicensed organization and inciting street children to join pro-Muslim Brotherhood protests to sexually assaulting minors.
Held in pre-trial detention for the past 751 days, since May 1, 2014, are the two founders of the Belady Foundation – the Egyptian-American Aya Hegazy, and her husband Mohamed Hassanein who are facing trial alongside six others.
All the defendants have adamantly denied and dismissed the charges leveled against them.
Local media outlets reported that this latest delay in the Cairo Criminal Court’s proceedings was attributed to the ongoing lack of progress made by the technical committee appointed to examine the contents of the Belady Foundation’s computers and electronic devices. In November the delay in the court’s proceedings was due to the failure of prison officials to transport the defendants to the courthouse on time, while in February proceedings were delayed after a court-appointed technician was unable to turn on a laptop that contained key evidence in the case.
The origins of the case against the Belady Foundation date back to May 1 2014, when police raided the Belady Foundation’s headquarters in downtown Cairo, arresting all those found on its premises after a man had pressed charges against the NGO, claiming that its members had kidnapped his son.
In February this year, a joint statement of solidarity was signed by 25 local NGOs calling for the immediate release of the Belady Foundation’s members and volunteers, along with the dropping of all charges leveled against them. In May,
Their joint statement referenced the case as “yet another example of the continued suppression of volunteer action and the quashing of youth and civil society initiatives.”
Local NGOs issued another statement in May condemning the continued detention of the defendants in the case. The statement broadly condemned the Egyptian state’s practice of pretrial detention, stating that it is tantamount to a prison sentence elongated indefinitely through appeals to bureaucratic process and functions as, “a form of punishment in and of itself, a means to retaliate against activists unrelated to any legal grounds for detention.”
Similarly, European-based rights organizations have issued a statement in support of the eight defendants, while expressing “serious concerns about the fairness of the Belady Foundation trial.” The EuroMed rights group and the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales called on Egyptian judicial authorities “to order the conditional release on bail of Ms Hegazy, as well as the remaining defendants and to proceed speedily towards a swift and robust evaluation of the prosecution evidence.”
Hegazy and Hassanein founded Belady in September 2013 to organize projects and campaigns on sanitation, combatting sexual harassment and caring for street children.