Before an exceptional court that neither listened to the defense nor responded to its requests: The verdict against Alaa, Baqer and Oxygen to be issued tomorrow
Tomorrow, Monday, December 20th, the Emergency State Security Misdemeanors Court will convene to issue its verdict in Case No. 1228/2021 (the Fifth Settlement Emergency State Security Misdemeanor). The case in which blogger Alaa Abdel-Fattah, human rights lawyer Mohamed Al-Baqer and journalist Mohamed Ibrahim (Oxygen) are accused of “spreading false news that threatens national security.” is reserved for judgment since the December 8th session. The first two sessions were held on October 18th and November 1st.
It is noteworthy that this Case No. 1228 of 2021 was copied from supreme state security case No. 1356 of 2019, in a manner to extend the detention of Abdel-Fattah, Baqer and Oxygen after they had exhausted the maximum period of pretrial detention established by law. It was also an attempt to get out of the predicament of the lack of evidence of the accusations that were brought against them more than two years ago, by creating a new accusation that was not mentioned before.
Throughout the previous three sessions, the court did not enable the defendants' defense to obtain an official copy of the case papers, to learn about the evidence of the accusation, if any, and to refute and contest it, in order to present the optimal defense to acquit the defendants of what was attributed to them. The court also did not allow international observers to attend the sessions, even though they were public sessions.
The lawyers had submitted to the court 3 main requests, none of which were granted by the court: a full official copy of the case file, permission for lawyers to visit their clients in prison to discuss defense strategy, and allowing Alaa Abdel-Fattah to write a special power of attorney allowing his defense to take legal action in a litigation lawsuit against the lawyer of the General State Security Prosecutions and the court hearing the case. Nor did it enable Oxygen to issue a special power of attorney for his defense in order to take legal measures to initiate a litigation against the court hearing the case.
During the last session, Alaa Abdel-Fattah and Muhammad Al-Baqer explained to the court the harsh conditions of their detention, and indicated that they were denied their right to read and exercise. After this intervention and the presentation of the requests, the judge immediately adjourned the session, without comment or response, before issuing the court’s decision to reserve the case for judgment on December 20th, 2021!
In a joint statement dated November 8th 2021, commenting on the case being reserved for judgment, human rights organizations, including the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, demanded: “To stop this farcical trial, which is being heard before an exceptional court, whose rulings may not be appealed.” The human rights organizations stressed the need for "the immediate and unconditional release of the three detainees, as they are prisoners of conscience." And considered, "that the court's rejection of the simplest defense requests raises doubts that the verdict has actually been issued, leaving only the announcement for the 20th of December." The signatories also held the President of the Republic and the Public Prosecutor responsible for the life and safety, both physical and psychological, of the three detainees, and renewed their refusal to "transform pretrial detention into an extended and open punishment by circumvention of the law”. The human rights organizations stressed on the fact that the trial began “at a time when the state decided to end the state of emergency and announced a national strategy for human rights”. The signatories considered this trial a confirmation that “the (formal) efforts and claims of observing human rights in Egypt are nothing but attempts to avoid international pressure and do not reflect any change in the Egyptian government’s policies hostile to human rights."