Lawyer: Prison sentence for 23 activists is political
Courtesy: Shady Zalat

Lawyer of 23 activists sentenced on Sunday to three years imprisonment has called the verdict “politically motivated” and says legal team plans to immediately appeal.

Along with the three-year prison sentences, each activists will be fine LE10,000 ($1,400) for violating the protest law by holding a march this summer, in which they demanded the release of political prisoners and the right to freedom of assembly.

Lawyers for these 23 imprisoned activists have announced their intention to immediately appeal against Sunday’s verdict.

Defense lawyer Yasmine Hossam Eddin told Mada Masr that “The court’s verdict is a political verdict in the first degree. There is no incriminating evidence against the defendants.”

Prosecutors have leveled several charges against the 23 youth defendants including: partaking in an unauthorized protest, violating the provisions of the protest law (Presidential Decree 107/2013: Law Regulating Right of Assembly, Processions and Peaceful Protest), instigating unrest, the destruction of public and private property, the possession of weapons and explosives, resisting authorities, and assaulting security forces.

The jailed protesters and their lawyers have denied and dismissed these charges.

Eddin explained that the videos and photographic evidence that prosecutors have presented do not show any of the defendants involved in any of the acts attributed to them.

“The judge was unable to identify any of the defendants from the evidence he was viewed,” said Hossam Eddin. 

The protesters and youth activists partaking in the march of June 21 were demanding the amendment of the wide-reaching protest law, and the release of all political prisoners who were arrested for violating it.

The march, which began as a peaceful procession, near the Ettehadiya Palace of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was hastily attacked by police forces, forcefully dispersed, and resulted in the arrests of dozens of youth demonstrators. 

Convening at the Torah Police Academy, the Heliopolis Criminal Court found the defendants guilty of charges leveled against them. However, the specific judicial findings and reasoning behind this verdict has not yet been issued.

Among the 23 youth arrested during this march is the leftist activist Sanaa Seif. Seif’s brother Alaa Abd El Fattah was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment earlier this year for partaking in an unauthorized (peaceful) protest in November, along with other charges.

Both Alaa and Sanaa were in police custody when their father, the renowned rights lawyer Ahmed Seif, died from health complications at hospital in August.

Following their father’s death, the siblings began a hunger strike in protest against their detention. Beyond prison, family members, friends, and activists joined in solidarity with their hunger strikes.

In response to today’s verdict, Alaa, who was previously released on bail pending appeal of his verdict, wrote on his Twitter account: “I was expecting the best in them, thinking they would release Sanaa and jail me instead. Turns out they’re going to jail us both.”

Another one of the 23 sentenced youth is Yara Sallam, a legal researcher and human rights activist at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

In statements released earlier this year, Amnesty International called for the unconditional release of Salem and her fellow prisoners of conscience, while Human Rights Watch (HRW) called for immediate release of all 23 political detainees.

HRW’s Joe Stork commented, “Egyptian authorities are detaining peaceful demonstrators for protesting a deeply restrictive protest law, and grilling a human rights defender about her organization’s work. Anyone detained for violating the protest law should be free, unless they have been charged with a credible offense.”

A delegation of diplomats and officials from the European Union was in attendance at today’s sentencing. In an interview with the privately owned Al-Mesryoon news website, one of these delegates (who withheld her name) said they were not attending this sentencing session in solidarity with a certain prisoner or prisoners, but “we are here as diplomats to follow up on Egypt’s legal and judicial developments.”


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