Monday,18 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1365, (19 - 25 October 2017)
Monday,18 February, 2019
Issue 1365, (19 - 25 October 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Pressuring for release

Social media campaigns are calling for the release of activists Ahmed Douma and Alaa Abdel-Fattah, reports Ahmed Morsy


#Abdel-Fattah #Douma
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On Thursday 19 October the Court of Cassation will hold a hearing for activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah who is appealing a five-year jail sentence for organising a demonstration against military trials of civilians.

Abdel-Fattah, an engineer, blogger and human rights activist was arrested with 22 other defendants. Though the remaining defendants in the case received three-year sentences in the retrial, Abdel-Fattah was given five years for organising the same protest — an act banned under the protest law enforced in November 2013. Arrested in 2014, Abdel-Fattah has already served three and a half years of his sentence.

Almost all the defendants were released through presidential pardons except for Abdel-Fattah and another activist, Abdel-Rahman Tarek “Mocha” who received a three-year sentence. His appeal was turned down in January.

On 24 September Abdel-Fattah’s family together with human rights activists and NGOs kicked off a solidarity campaign “25 Days to #FreeAlaa” to focus on his case and to pressure for his release. The campaign lasts for 25 days, from 24 September to 19 October, the date of the appeal.

“We aim to mobilise media, attract attention and build pressure,” the campaign says. The campaign’s Facebook page has nearly 15,000 members.

Abdel-Fattah, one of the public faces of the 2011 Revolution that removed Hosni Mubarak from power, is also involved in another case over charges of insulting the judiciary along with 24 other prominent figures in separate incidents in 2012 and 2013. Last month, the Cairo Criminal Court postponed the ruling to 30 December.

Another solidarity campaign, including public figures and activists, was recently launched demanding the release of Ahmed Douma, one of the founders of the Kefaya and 6 April activist movements. Douma is involved in three cases. He received a lifetime sentence in one, a verdict that was annulled last week by the Court of Cassation which ordered a retrial. 

The case, known as the Cabinet Clashes, involves 229 other defendants who in addition to jail sentences were given a LE17 million fine. They are charged with illegal assembly, the acquisition of arms, attacking the cabinet and Scientific Institute building, and assaulting police and military forces during clashes between protesters and police outside the cabinet building in December 2011.

Nasser Amin, a member of the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR), demanded Douma’s release. “Regarding the judicial ruling, Egyptian authorities should immediately release Ahmed Douma after the acceptance of the appeal,” Amin said.

Douma’s lawyers are starting procedures for his release following the Court of Cassation’s retrial order.

The sessions of this case were heated with lawyers leaving the court after claims that it misled witnesses and refused to include key evidence. In the final session and after judge Nagi Shehata issued the life-term ruling, Douma clapped. As a result, Shehata sentenced him to a further three years and a LE10,000 fine. Douma’s appeal against insulting the judiciary was accepted in May and a retrial is scheduled.

In the third case, he received a three-year sentence issued in 2015 for violating the protest law in the events that broke out in November 2013 in Abdine courthouse. Douma has already served the sentence, meaning there is no legal justification to keep him in prison.

Human rights activists and the media have demanded the pardoning of imprisoned activists. In October 2016 President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi formed the Detained Youth Committee which looks into such cases and suggests the names of detainees to be released. It collects the names of eligible detainees from several sources, including media outlets, NGOs, trade unions and the NCHR. The detainees are filtered before they are recommended to the presidency for pardoning.

The committee is currently preparing a fourth list of prisoners who will be granted a presidential pardon.

“We are drafting a new list for inmates to be pardoned,” MP and committee member Tarek Al-Khouli said in press statements late last month. According to Al-Khouli, the committee held several meetings to not only discuss the fourth list but develop a plan to reintegrate and rehabilitate those pardoned with regard to returning to their jobs and education.

While media reports suggest that the fourth list is soon to be announced, Al-Ahram Weekly learnt from sources in the Interior Ministry that pardons may be announced on the sixth anniversary of the 25 January Revolution.

The previous three lists included more than 800 prisoners.

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