An appeals court has amended the verdict against 23 protesters who were arrested while marching to the Ettehadiya Presidential Palace last June to two years in prison and two years probation, according to lawyers who attended the court session held at the Police Academy on Sunday.
Lawyer Yasmine Hossam Eddin, a member of the Front of Defense for Egyptian Protesters, told Mada Masr that the verdict remains unfair and arbitrary, despite the reduction in prison time, given the absence of any evidence of the charges filed.
Hossam Eddin said that although there is still a third level of litigation left for the lawyers to challenge the verdict in the Court of Cassation, the process can take longer than the one and a half years left in the verdict.
The 23 defendants were sentenced to three years in prison in October. The charges filed against them include partaking in an unauthorized protest, violating the provisions of the Protest Law, instigating unrest, the destruction of public and private property, the possession of weapons and explosives, resisting authorities and assaulting security forces.
The defendants include 20-year old activist Sanaa Seif and award-winning human rights defender Yara Sallam. They also include Omar Morsi, who was the suffers from a head injury sustained in a previous protest, and activist Nahed Sherif, who was arrested while protesting in 2012 and was released after two years, only to be arrested again three months later.
The appeals court has also upheld a two-year sentence today against protesters in another case known as the “Talaat Harb protest,” in which activists were protesting the arrest of the Ettehadiya protesters.
Hossam Eddin said that the case lacks evidence that all of the defendants took part in the protest. She adds that there is no evidence of any of the violence-related charges that accompany the charge of breaking the Protest Law, which alone would not lead to prison time.
“It is obvious that there are orders from higher powers who don’t want these people to get out. The state deals with those in the revolutionary camp with more arbitrary aggression than anyone, even more than members of the Muslim Brotherhood, because they see them as the real threat. They don’t want the revolutionary camp to become active again on the ground,” Hossam Eddin said.
She added that the same arbitrary treatment is expected against the 24 detainees currently undergoing retrial for a 15-year sentence for breaking the Protest Law and other charges of violence in what is known as the “Shura Council case.”
Activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, brother of Sanaa Seif, is among the defendants in the case.
Abolishing or amending the Protest Law, seen as an infringement on the right of assembly enshrined in the Constitution, has been a widespread demand since the ratification of the law in November 2013. The issue has been raised by the National Council for Human Rights along with national and international rights defenders.
According to eyewitnesses, the Ettehadiya protest was peaceful until attacked by unknown assailants, followed by police forces, who dispersed it and arrested protesters. The case was swiftly referred to court in June, days after the arrest of the defendants, who have remained in detention since.