Egypt rights groups slam ‘sham’ trial of activists

Activist Alaa Abdelfattah and 24 others were sentenced to 15 years in jail and $14,000 fine

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A coalition of human rights groups in Egypt condemned on Thursday the sentencing of a prominent Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah and 24 others as a “severe violation of the basic right to a fair trial.”

The groups criticized “the sham proceedings” in the trial of the activists who were accused of violating a law banning demonstrations without prior authorization from the government.

“Putting one of the faces and symbols of opposition activism, Alaa Abdel Fattah, behind bars appears to be a punitive measure against his continual vocal criticism of the authorities, and aims to serve as a deterrent for others signaling that criticism is no longer tolerate,” according to the statement, signed by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, and several others.

Alaa Abdelfattah, Ahmed Abdel Rahman, Wael Metwally and 22 others were convicted of violating the protest law, illegal gathering, theft, and attacking officials on duty and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment, $14,000 fines, and a further five years of police surveillance after their release.

Because the verdict was pronounced in absentia, Abdel Fattah will be granted a retrial, said his father Ahmed Seif, who is also his lawyer.

“According to Egyptian law, the ruling is in absentia because the defence lawyers had not presented their case,” Seif told AFP.

“Alaa was not allowed to enter the court,” he said, denouncing what he said was a hasty ruling issued after just a few hearings.

“We had not yet watched any of the video evidence” in the case, he said, “nor had the prosecution and defense presented their cases.”

The sentencing comes just days after the swearing in of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who has vowed to return Egypt to stability rather than pursue democratic freedoms.

(With AFP)

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