The three-year prison sentences handed to 32 Tourah Cement Company security workers earlier this month were reduced on Sunday to two months in a ruling by the Maadi Appeals Court.
Maadi Criminal Court announced the initial prison terms on June 4 on charges that asserted the workers had assaulted a police captain, obstructed justice and used violence to resist authorities.
According to the findings of the Maadi Appeals Court published by the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANRHI), the court dismissed all criminal charges leveled against the 32 workers in its Sunday ruling, except the charge of resisting authorities, as it found them guilty of obstructing police efforts to apprehend a wanted worker by collectively assisting in his escape.
Lawyer Gamal Eid, the director of the ANRHI, stated that the appeals court’s Sunday ruling represented a move “from grave injustice, to lesser injustice.”
The appeals court’s Sunday ruling was based on Article 375 of Egypt’s Penal Code. “Anyone who uses force, violence, terrorism, threats or illegal measures to attack or attempt to attack authorities is liable to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years and a fine not exceeding LE 100,” the article asserts.
The workers are currently being held in the 15th of May prison, located on the outskirts of Cairo.
Those implicate in the case were among the 75 full-time security personnel that initiated a sit-in in March, demanding full-time contracts and retroactive payment of wages, as some had worked full time at the company for up to 10 to 15 years on temporary or part-time contracts.
Police arrested 32 workers of the workers on the Tourah Cement Company’s grounds on May 22. The prosecutor referred them to trial the following day, and the court proceedings commenced on May 28.
The Tourah Cement Company – which had requested the deployment of police forces to disperse the workers’ sit-in protest – has not stated whether it will meet workers’ demands for full-time employment and benefits and reinstate those that have been arrested.
Lawyer Haiytham Mohamadein expressed skepticism that those who had been involved in the sit-in would be allowed back into the company, let alone be reinstated to their former jobs with full-time contracts and benefits. Mohamadein said that the Tourah Cement Company is seeking to employ new security workers through a private contracting company.
A host of organizations and individuals, both in Egypt and abroad, have expressed solidarity with the imprisoned Tourah Cement Company workers in a petition calling for the release of the 32 detainees.
Messages of international solidarity also have poured in from dozens of trade unionists and labor activists from Australia, Austria, Canada, Spain, UK, USA, among other countries.
The Tourah Cement Company workers are the latest labor group to be arrested and referred to trial for industrial action. In April, police arrested 16 protesting Telecom Egypt Company workers in Cairo, while in January police forces forcefully dispersed a sit-in at the IFFCO Oils Company in the Suez Governorate, briefly arresting scores of workers.
In December 2016, police were deployed to disperse two sit-ins at the privately owned Egyptian Fertilizers Company (EFC) and the Egyptian Basic Industries Corporation (EBIC), both of which are owned by the billionaire Nassif Sawiris.
In September 2016, police conducted dawn raids at the apartments of bus drivers from the Public Transport Authority who had been planning a partial strike, detaining six drivers, two of whom may still face trial. In May 2016, military police surrounded a sit-in led by Alexandria Shipyard Company workers and imposed a lockout on the company. Twenty-six civilian workers were referred to military trial.