9 human rights organisation have demanded that an Egyptian court “dismiss charges against members of the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms.”
The demand was announced in expectation of the release of the Emergency State Security Criminal Court’s verdict, expected tomorrow, Sunday 5 March, concerning a case dating back to 2018.
The defendants’ charges relate to their defense of human rights.
“The Emergency State Security Court does not uphold minimum fair trial guarantees and its verdicts cannot be appealed, which is particularly alarming given the court’s record of unjustly sentencing peaceful civilians including politicians, rights advocates, and journalists”, the organisations have said in a joint statement.
The statement continues, “tomorrows’s sentencing hearing for ECRF members and the other defendants before the Emergency State Security Court and the preceding unjust trial is reflective of the Egyptian government’ punitive and vindictive approach towards the country’s human rights defenders. The trial belies the credibility and viability of the National Dialogue and the National Strategy for Human Rights, initiated in 2022 and 2021 respectively. It also exposes the falsity of the October 2021 declared lifting of the state of emergency, which continues to operate under the guise of other repressive laws and the government’s exceptional (emergency) courts, which repudiate all guarantees of a fair trial.”
The case involves 31 defendants, 14 of whom are currently in detention after being charged with either supporting, joining or leading a banned group.
Defendants include human rights activist Hoda Abdel-Moneim, a former member of the National Council for Human Rights; human rights lawyer and former Director of the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms, Izzat Ghoneim; and lawyer Muhammad Abu Hurairah and his wife, Aisha Al-Shater. All their charges relate to highlighting human rights abuses via social media.
Their trial has involved numerous legal violations, including defendants being interrogated without their lawyers, preventing their relatives from attending court sessions, and barring lawyers from access to case files.
And, the statement continued, “prior to the trial, members of the ECRF were subjected to prolonged pretrial detention following their arrests between March and November 2018 as part of an expanded arrest campaign targeting the rights organization. The accused rights advocates endured a series of violations documented by Egyptian and international human rights organizations, and the United Nations described their detention as arbitrary while demanding their immediate release.”
Ghoneim, for example, was forcibly disappeared for three days after his arrest, and after was made to appear in a video published by the Egyptian Ministry of Interior, in which he showed signs of stress or torture.
As the statement clarified, “Ghoneim was ordered to be released in September 2018 but he was again forcibly disappeared before the decision was implemented, this time for about five months. He reappeared in February 2019 as a suspect in the same case from which he was ordered released, with an additional charge related to evading probationary messages.”
Abdel-Moneim, the statement reports, has been “subjected to a medley of violations and abuses, including medical neglect and the denial of any visitation in prison. Her life is in critical danger as she faces urgent health problems, including kidney failure and a heart condition, which require that she be immediately transferred to a hospital”
Aisha Al-Shatir is being denied healthcare such that her life is now imperiled. She has endured torture, incommunicado detention, and the denial of any visitation.
The 9 organisations ended their statement with the demand, “that all charges be dropped at tomorrow’s sentencing hearing against the defendants including members of the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms and that those detained are immediately released.”
The 9 organisations are:
Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms
Egyptian Front for Human Rights
El Nadim Center
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Egyptian Human Rights Forum
Egyptian Network for Human Rights
The Freedom Initiative
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
Human Rights Watch