A Cairo Criminal Court released one detainee involved in Belady Foundation case, in which several detainees, including Egyptian-American Aya Hegazy, face charges of child abuse.
Lawyer Taher Aboul Nasr told Mada Masr on Saturday that Amira Farag was released on LE1,000 bail due to her poor health condition. The trial has been ongoing for one year and the rest of the defendants, who have remained in detention for over two years, will appear in front of court tomorrow to continue hearing prosecution’s witness testimonies.
Hegazy was arrested in 2014 alongside her husband, Mohamed Hassanein, and several staffers from the Belady Foundation, an NGO they founded to support street children. She and the seven other defendants face charges ranging from running an unlicensed organization and inciting street children to join pro-Muslim Brotherhood protests, to sexually assaulting minors.
These charges have been vehemently denied by all the defendants, as well as Hegazy’s family.
The case raised several questions and has faced local and international criticism. Skeptics of the evidence behind the case were particularly concerned after one of the children the foundation worked with, and who testified against Hegazy, sent a letter to her while she was in detention apologizing for his testimony, claiming that he was forced to confess against her, and he hopes for her freedom.
Former US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton demanded Hegazy’s release during a meeting with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in September this year. Clinton also “raised concerns about prosecution of Egyptian human rights organizations and activists,” according to her press release. Egypt has been criticized for its recent crackdown on human rights defenders and NGOs.
Clinton’s statement was the latest in a series of calls from US lawmakers to release Hegazy. In September, two US Congressmen held a press conference calling for her immediate release. The White House also released a statement calling for her release after meeting with her family.
However Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said in comments to the American PBS network during a trip to the US earlier this month that he rejects any claims that accusations against Hegazy are “bogus charges,” adding that the accusations leveled against her are serious.
He said “I think anyone would be interested to get to the bottom of accusations related to minors and abuse. So, I would challenge the issue of ‘bogus accusations.’ And I think it’s important to recognize the impartiality of the Egyptian judicial system.”
Several local NGOs condemned the ongoing detention of defendants in the case in a statement published in May of this year, as did a group of Europe-based rights organizations who expressed “serious concerns about the fairness of the Belady Foundation trial.”