The Cairo Criminal Court is due to issue its verdict in the Shura Council case at the Torah Police Academy on Monday, determining the fate of 21 political activists.
The detained defendants have been charged with the assault and battery of police inspector Emad Tahhoun, stealing his walkie-talkie, partaking in an unauthorised protest, rioting, resisting authorities, blocking streets, obstructing traffic, destruction of public property, along with involvement in acts of thuggery and intimidation.
The Shura Council case, which dates back to November 2013, invokes several controversial points – both on legal and political levels. Rights lawyers have questioned and delved-into these controversies before the judiciary in their defense of these jailed activists.
Defense lawyer Malek Adly told Mada Masr: “There are not too many options. It’s either going to be a verdict of acquittal or a conviction.”
“If the court’s verdict is based solely on legal considerations, the defendants should be acquitted,” Adly added. “This while the prosecution’s witnesses – particularly those testifying on behalf of the Ministry of Interior – would be charged with perjury.”
The defense lawyer claimed: “This is basically an open-and-shut case. This trial has been full of legal violations and inconsistencies. The Interior Ministry’s witnesses have clearly been involved in perjury and tampering with evidence.”
“Regarding the prosecution’s charges of the theft of officer Emad Tahhoun’s walkie-talkie, these charges should be dismissed as baseless and falsified. The act of theft can only be proven if the evidence in question is retrieved and presented before the court,” Adly said.
“There are several courts and judicial circuits which are controlled by security apparatuses. In such cases the law is not the judge.”
Adly added that in terms of purely legal considerations the defendants in the Shura Council case should walk free. However there is a risk that the defendants could be found guilty and will remain behind bars.
In case his clients are convicted, Adly clarified that he and the defense team would appeal against such a verdict – not before the appeals court, but rather the Court of Cassation – as this sentence would have been issued by the criminal court.
According to Adly, among the most controversial incidents in the case was the evidence used against the defendants – after the conclusion of their allocated sessions for presenting evidence or testimonies.
Prosecutors presented this evidence last month on January 17. These two items of evidence included a bladed weapon along with a poster reading: “I’m against the Muslim Brotherhood… I’m against the government.”
Defense lawyers considered this a case of falsified evidence, as this evidence was not presented before the defendants while they were being questioned by the prosecution.
Furthermore, Adly claimed: “There were clear contradictions in the testimony of Emad Tahhoun and the testimonies of the Interior Ministry’s conscripts before the court,” referring to the theft of Tahhoun’s walkie-talkie, as there were conflicting accounts regarding the circumstances and timing of this alleged act of robbery.
During his defense, Khaled Ali, has presented several points before the court in favor of the defendant’s due-process rights.
Ali argued against the validity of any confessions or statements extracted from defendants in light of alleged psychological and moral coercion during their investigations.
Ali pointed out that saying the activists protesting outside the Shura Council had been arrested around 4:30 pm on November 26, 2013 — and they remained in police trucks until midnight. He criticized the prosecutors for their insistence to commence investigations with these detainees in police headquarters, from after midnight until 5 am.
In his defense of the jailed activists, Ali referred to the testimonies of members of the Constituent Assembly who were working on drafting Egypt’s new Constitution, namely Hoda al-Sada, Mohamed Abul-Ghar and Ahmed Eid, while the activists protesting outside the Shura Council were being arrested.
In their testimonies the three confirmed seeing the accused after their arrests while they were being temporarily detained within the Shura Council. These testimonies confirmed that activists bore bruises and other signs of beatings.
“These testimonies were confirmed via the video clips that were presented before the court – revealing that defendants had been subjected to beatings following their arrests and detention,” said Adly.
“Ali had criticized the prosecution for ignoring these facts, while focusing instead on the injury of Emad Tahhoun’s finger during the forced dispersal of this protest.”
Adly added that at the conclusion of the last session of the trial, presiding judge Farid Hassan told the media that a member of the defense team, Ragia Omran, had presented photographic evidence of the theft of Tahhoun’s walkie-talkie. Adly says the judge claimed that this evidence appeared in the photos she presented to the court.
However, on her social media accounts Omran responded to the judge’s media statements. The lawyer claimed she had not presented any photo of the officer in question or his walkie-talkie. She confirmed that the photo the judge is referring to is not linked to any evidence she presented before the court.
Below is a timeline of the Shura Council case:
November 26, 2013
Security forces disperse a protest outside the Shura Council in downtown Cairo where demonstrators rallied against the newly issued Protest Law (Presidential Decree 107/2013), as well as against provisions in Egypt’s draft constitution facilitating the trial of civilians before military courts. Numerous activists are arrested, and then transported outside Cairo in police trucks. Several protesters are released – in isolated locations outside the capital.
November 28, 2013
Security forces raid the home of leftist activist Alaa Abd El Fattah, destroying personal belongings in the process. Abd El Fattah is arrested for illegal assembly, along with other charges.
March 23, 2014
Activists Abd El Fattah and Ahmed Abdel Rahman are released from detention after each paying a bail of LE10,000 pending trial.
June 11, 2014
A court issues verdicts against 25 activists, sentencing each, in absentia, to 15 years’ imprisonment and a fine of LE100,000 despite the fact the defendants are present at the location of the trial. Police then detain the defendants in light of their sentencing.
August 6, 2014
Defense lawyer Taher Abul Nasr objects to the enclosure of his clients in a glass-cased defendants’ cage during their trial, as defendants are supposed to be allowed to follow their court hearings and legal procedures. Defense lawyer Khaled Ali calls for the examination of the following witnesses: Khaled Youssef, Ahmed Eid, Amr Moussa and Diaa Rashwan, who were all involved in the drafting of the Egyptian Constitution inside the Shura Council at the time of the dispersal outside.
August 18, 2014
Abd El Fattah launches a hunger strike to protest against his continued detention – as authorities had granted him the right to appeal his case.
August 30, 2014
The Ministry of Interior grants Abd El Fattah (detained in Torah Prison) and his youngest sister Sanaa (detained in Qanater Prison) security clearance to attend the funeral of their father – lawyer Ahmed Seif al-Islam – who had died in hospital whilst his two children were locked-up.
September 10, 2014
Prosecutors screen videos in the court session of protests unrelated to the Shura Council protesters – in an attempt to build a case against the defendants. Personal video clips showing Abd El Fattah and his family are also screened in court. Defendants remain behind a glass enclosure during the trial. Their trial is adjourned until September 15.
September 15, 2014
Presiding judge Mohamed Ali al-Fiqqi recuses himself from the Shura Council trial, citing “disrespect” as the reason why he is stepping down from the case. Defendants Abd El Fattah, Mohamed Abdel Rahman and Wael Metwaly are conditionally released from custody.
October 27, 2014
The trial resumes with a new presiding judge. Defense lawyers present their pleas and legal requests. The court orders the renewed detention of 20 defendants, in addition to Metwaly — who was not in attendance during the court session.
January 17, 2015
Following the conclusion of their allotted sessions for presenting evidence and testimonies, prosecutors present new evidence against the defendants during the course of the defense council’s hearings. Defense lawyers accuse prosecutors of fraudulence and tampering with evidence.