Jailed rights lawyers and journalists in remand detention charged in new case

The State Security Prosecution added rights lawyer Mohamed al-Baqer and journalist Esraa Abdelfattah — both of whom have been jailed on remand since September 2019 — to a new case on Monday, according to lawyers. 

In recent days, prosecutors have charged at least two other lawyers and another journalist, also held on remand since autumn 2019, in the same new case — Case 855/2020. 

State security prosecutors interrogated journalist Solafa Magdy and rights lawyer Mahienour al-Massry on Sunday on charges of belonging to a terrorist organization, publishing false news, and misusing social media in the new case, lawyer Khaled Ali wrote in a post on his Facebook page. 

Prosecutors accused Magdy and Massry of being part of a network of people working inside and outside of prisons to spread fake news, communicating with one another when defendants are transported for detention renewal hearings, during their daily exercise on the prison grounds and during prison visits, according to Ali. 

Ali and other defense lawyers argued that, since the defendants have been denied access to phones, internet, prison visitations and outdoor exercise since March due to the coronavirus, they could not have committed such crimes. 

During the session, prosecutors dropped the charges of spreading false news and misuse of social media against Massry. All three charges remain against Magdy, who invoked her right to silence for most of the questioning. When prosecutors asked her why, she said these charges were along the same lines as the ones in the case for which she is currently jailed, and that she had already answered all their questions in full, but was still in jail, her young son deprived of her, Ali wrote in a separate post later in the day. “I’m probably going to be jailed for this case, too, so what’s the difference between answering and not answering,” Ali quoted her as saying. 

Prosecutors ordered both defendants jailed for 15 days pending investigation into the charges. Magdy was arrested from a cafe in November 2019, and Massry, arrested by plainclothes agents as she exited a courthouse in September 2019, are both already held on remand in Case 488/2019, facing charges of spreading false news and belonging to a terrorist group.  

Lawyer Mohamed Hafez, who represents Massry, told Mada Masr that the defendants are still currently detained pending investigation into Case 488/2019, as the law prohibits pretrial detention of a defendant on more than one case at a time. But if they were to be released on bail, for example, then the new pretrial detention order in Case 855/2020 would come into effect. 

Hafez added that while Massry is charged with belonging to a terrorist group that was named as the Muslim Brotherhood in her initial case, Sunday’s charges did not name the group she is accused of belonging to. 

Case 488/2019 first emerged in the wake of a government crackdown following the deadly train crash at Ramses station in February 2019. Other people have been added to the case afterward, especially following the sweeping arrest campaign that followed calls for protests in September 2019. 

Rights lawyer Amr Imam, who has been detained since October 2019 was also added to the Case 855/2020 last week, according to the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, where Imam works. He had represented several defendants arrested in the crackdown last September and was charged with belonging to and providing funding for a terrorist group plotting to carry out a terrorist act. Prosecutors did not specify which group, lawyers said, and also ordered Imam held on remand in the new case. 

A legal source who spoke to Mada on condition of anonymity said that multiple orders for pretrial detention might be a way of preempting the release of a defendant, pointing out that the criminal court ordered the release of approximately 150 defendants last week. 

Meanwhile, activist and film editor Sanaa Seif, who was arrested in June is being referred to trial, her lawyers said on Sunday. Seif faces charges of inciting terrorism and spreading false news. She was arrested as she was entering the public prosecutor’s office, where she was filing a complaint after she, her sister, and her mother were beaten and robbed by a group of women as security officers watched and prevented them from leaving. The assault took place outside of Tora prison, where the family had spent the night in protest of the lack of communication with Alaa Abd El Fattah, Seif’s brother and a prominent blogger who has also been held in remand since last September. 

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