Court orders release of 10 defendants in Rabea dispersal case on medical grounds, adjourns trial

The Cairo Criminal Court ordered the release of 10 defendants in the Rabea al-Adaweya dispersal case due to the poor health on Tuesday, and adjourned the trial until January 17. Jailed photojournalist Shawkan was not among those released.

The Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Freedom and Justice news portal reported that those released are: Ahmed Zaher, Sherif al-Wardany, Nazih Mohammed, Hussein Abdel Mawgoud, Ahmed Abdel Rahim, Mustafa Ahmed, Hisham Gouda, Azzouz Abdel Malik, Ahmed Hanafy and Azmi Abdel Salam.

None of the 10 defendants are high-profile members of the Muslim Brotherhood group, which is outlawed. Several suffer from serious illnesses and poor health.

Although he is not a member of the Brotherhood, Mahmoud Abu Zeid, also known as Shawkan, has remained in detention for over three years pending trial. He suffers from Hepatitis C.

Chief defendants in the case Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood’s supreme guide, Mohamed al-Beltagy, Essam al-Erian, Bassem Ouda and Abdel Rahman al-Barr also remain in detention.

The case includes 739 defendants who stand accused of unlawful assembly, display of force, premeditated murder, possession of unlicensed firearms, destruction of properties and obstructing traffic.

If convicted of the more serious charges, defendants may be sentenced to death or life imprisonment.

The dispersal of the Rabea al-Adaweya sit-in took place on August 14, 2013. Troops were deployed to forcefully disperse tens of thousands of protesters expressing support for Brotherhood-affiliated former President Mohamed Morsi, a response to mass protests against his one-year rule.

According to a report issued by Human Rights Watch (HRW), the violent dispersal of the Rabea sit-in led to the killing of at least 817 individuals, “and more likely at least 1,000.” HRW added that this may constitute “crimes against humanity.”

HRW also pointed out that eight police personnel were killed by armed protesters. Egypt’s Health Ministry published a lower death toll for the protesters (just over 600) and a higher death toll for troops (43), however.

No members of the current administration or security forces have stood trial in the case, and on December 25, 2013, Egypt officially classified the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.

The state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper reported that Tuesday’s session included a review of evidence, and judges were shown “some videos which included scenes unrelated to the case.” It added that the court moved to exclude these videos from its proceedings, adding that other videos were subsequently screened that included scenes of “bodies in burial shrouds,” and the bodies of deceased protesters who took part in the sit-in.

Frredom and Justice wrote that several defendants have surpassed the period of pretrial detention, making their continued detention unlawful, and asserted that the Office of the Prosecutor General was “deliberately delaying the release of medical reports” of several detainees who are suffering serious health problems.

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