The trial of 32 Tourah Cement Company workers was adjourned until June 3 after police personnel failed to transport the defendants to the courtroom for the session on Sunday. According to reports four of the workers were hospitalized while in custody.
The trial is due to take place in the Maadi Misdemeanors Court, with the workers facing charges of assaulting a police captain, obstructing justice and using violence to resist authorities. The workers had been staging a sit-in, which was forcefully dispersed on May 22, at the privately owned Tourah Cement Company in March.
Defense lawyer Haitham Mohamedein told Mada Masr that the charges are trumped-up and baseless, adding “the Interior Ministry appears to have decided that it wants to extend the legal proceedings.”
According to the lawyer the Maadi court moved to issue a fine against the warden of the 15th of May Prison, where the defendants are currently being held, for not transporting them to the courtroom for their session on time.
“The families of those detained have expressed great dismay at their arrests, jailing and referral to trial,” he added, particularly as the proceedings are taking place during Ramadan.
A solidarity campaign was launched following the workers’ arrests, including a petition calling on the government to release the workers which has been signed by over 250 individuals and been endorsed by 12 labor unions.
The petition also claimed that the detainees had been subjected to physical abuse, degrading treatment and had their personal belongings stolen while in custody.
Another worker who had been protesting at the company told Mada Masr, on condition of anonymity, that “four of the detained workers have been referred to hospital.” They could not confirm, however, the exact reasons for their hospitalization, “as we have not been able to speak directly with our detained coworkers since their arrests, and because they were not transported to their court session.”
Mohamedein dismissed the charges leveled against the workers, asserting that the protest was “entirely peaceful and non-violent.” He commented specifically on accusations the workers assaulted an officer, saying that no medical report had been filed or evidence filed.
Seventy five full-time security personnel initiated the sit-in during March, demanding full-time contracts, and the retroactive payment of wages as some have worked full time at the company for up to 10-15 years on temporary or part-time contracts.
The protest was a reaction to the murder of a security guard at the company earlier this year. He died during an altercation with people thought to be stealing property from company grounds. However, the board declined to provide his family with compensation or insurance, claiming he was a part-time employee.
It also follows the company administration’s refusal to uphold a previous court verdict. The workers filed a lawsuit against the Tourah Cement Company’s administration, and, in May 2016, a Cairo Appeals Court ruled in their favor, determining that they were entitled to the company’s profit-sharing scheme, healthcare and other employment rights.
The anonymous worker added that Tourah Cement Company administrators were responsible for calling police personnel to break up the sit-in, “while simultaneously continuing to disregard the May verdict that specified that our contractual rights be upheld retroactively.”