Monday,25 March, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1377, ( 18 - 24 January 2018)
Monday,25 March, 2019
Issue 1377, ( 18 - 24 January 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Prominent activist acquitted

A two-year sentence against Mahinour Al-Masry is overturned on appeal, reports Ahmed Morsy

On Saturday Egyptian activist Mahinour Al-Masry and rights lawyer Moatassem Medhat were acquitted by the Alexandria Appeals Court of participating in an illegal demonstration held last year to protest against the government’s decision to transfer sovereignty of the islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia.

This week’s ruling overturned a two-year sentence handed to Al-Masry and Medhat on 30 December by a misdemeanours court in Alexandria on charges of protesting without a permit and chanting slogans insulting the president.

In June 2017 President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi ratified the controversial demarcation deal after it was approved by parliament. In the same month activists and lawyers staged demonstrations in front of an Alexandria court to protest against the deal. Hundreds have been tried for illegally demonstrating in governorates across Egypt only to be released after paying hefty fines.

In the same ruling the Alexandria Misdemeanours Court handed three-year prison terms to defendants Asmaa Naim, Walid Al-Amari and Ziad Abul-Fadl, all of whom were tried in absentia.

“It is a cause of celebration when young people are released because they are the future of this country, the generation from which the new political elite will be formed,” veteran political activist and member of the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) George Ishak told Al-Ahram Weekly.

Al-Masry, who first came to prominence during the 25 January Revolution, was the recipient of the 2014 Ludovic Trarieux international human rights award. The announcement she had won the prize came while she was serving a two-month sentence for participating in an unauthorised protest.

She had earlier been arrested in December 2013 while taking part in a protest demanding justice for Khaled Said, the young Alexandrian whose brutal death at the hands of the police in 2010 contributed to the 2011 uprising. She served four months of a six-month sentence before her jail term was suspended in the face of a massive solidarity campaign.

The Detained Youth Committee, formed to examine cases of young Egyptians detained since the 25 January Revolution, says it will soon complete a fourth list of detainees recommended for a presidential pardon.

“The committee only considers cases related to demonstrations and freedom of opinion,” says committee member Mohamed Abdel-Aziz. Once complete the fourth list of names will be reviewed by several organisations before it is made public.

“We have been waiting for three months now. Even the Detained Youth Committee doesn’t know when the fourth batch of prisoners will receive presidential pardons,” says Ishak, though he suspects an official announcement may be made during the course of the presidential election campaign.

The Detained Youth Committee was formed in October 2016 following a directive from Al-Sisi. It is headed by politician and member of the Free Egyptians Party Osama Al-Ghazali Harb and includes MP Tarek Al-Khouli, Abdel-Aziz and Karim Al-Sakka, a member of Al-Sisi’s 2014 election campaign.

Since its being formed the committee has compiled three lists of detainees recommended for presidential pardons.

The Detained Youth Committee receives suggested names of prisoners, all of whom have received final prison sentences, from parliament’s Human Rights Committee, the Press Syndicate, the semi-governmental NCHR and political parties.

Under Egyptian law individuals held in precautionary detention and whose names are still with the prosecutor-general do not qualify for a presidential pardon. The lists of pardoned prisoners are restricted to those who have received final prison sentences related to illegal assembly.

In June 2017 Al-Sisi pardoned 502 prisoners. In March of the same year 203 prisoners were pardoned and in November 2016, 82 prisoners were released.

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