An emergency court acquits Shooting Club hamlet residents of charges of protesting and damaging property
The Muharram Bey Emergency State Security Misdemeanors Court in Alexandria, ruled last Wednesday, December 28th, acquitting the 13 defendants in Emergency State Security Misdemeanor No. 1334 of 2021 - known as the Shooting Club hamlet residents’ case. The verdict acquitted all the defendants of what was attributed to them and others of gathering and displaying force, assaulting judicial officers, possessing and acquiring materials used in assaulting people, and destroying public and private property.
The defenses of EIPR lawyers who took over the task of defending four of the defendants, were summarized as follows: the commonness and fabrication of the accusation; proving the fact that some of the accused were lured to the street by a member of the People’s Assembly so that they would be informed of the fate of the area and were then arrested; the unreasonableness of the incident in question; the absence of a witness or evidence of the destruction of public or private property by any of the accused; lack of any report of road blocks; the statements of the National Security Officer and the Investigation Officer are identical to what shows that one is a copy of the other and challenges their credibility; and the unconstitutionality of the provisions of the protest law, the subject of the accusation.
Security forces had arrested dozens of families on last June 4th, after they were dispersed with tear gas because they went out to protest the plan to demolish their homes and forcibly transfer them to the Bashayer al-Khair area without prior warning and without consulting with them about the proposed solutions or providing fair compensation. Then the Public Prosecution charged them with inciting a gathering and demonstrating, damaging public and private property, throwing stones at security forces and causing injuries to them.
The background of the case - according to testimonies by a number of residents of the area to EIPR researchers and lawyers - is that the residents protested what they considered a plan to displace them. Although about 115 million pounds were previously allocated in 2019 to develop the area and complete the repair of its sewage networks, the completion of the development was abandoned at the beginning of 2020 and a decision was issued to evacuate it.
The residents said that they initially protested the demolition decision and demanded the completion of the development of the area, similar to other areas that were developed, without eviction of their residents instead of transferring them to apartments outside the city of Alexandria. However, after they realized that it was impossible to stop the implementation of the decision, and that the alternative was "new rent" apartments to which they would be transferred to "Bashaer Al Khair" housing, they demanded adequate compensation as a minimum and that flat, house and ship owners are granted ownership of the new locations and to be provided with official documents that secure their rights. However, officials made it clear that their homes were built on state-owned land, which does not entitle them to these rights.
EIPR welcomed the ruling and called for the respect of freedoms of expression in Egypt, including the right of citizens to express their protest against violations of their fundamental rights, such as the right to housing. It also called upon the state not to overuse punitive texts that criminalize the use of the right to free expression.