Abdullah Ahmed Mohammed Ismail Al-Fakharany (23) is a medical student at Ain Shams University. Al-Fakharany is a human rights activist and project officer at the Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights.
Al-Fakharany was arrested by the Egyptian Security Forces on 25 August 2013 while visiting a friend, Mohammed Salah Sultan, who had been shot in the arm during the dispersal of the Rabaa al-Adawiya sit-in. Sultans’ house was under observation. Once Al-Fakharany and his friends entered the house, the Security Forces stormed it and arrested all those in the house without a warrant or a detention order. Charges were fabricated several days after their detention.
Al-Fakharany has been accused of various charges, including membership of an unlawful organisation (the Muslim Brotherhood), incitement to violence, vandalism, unlawful gathering and sedition and disturbing the public peace by spreading lies and rumors against the State of Egypt. All the charges relate to events in August last year after the Government of President Mohammed Morsi was ousted. This was several months before the Muslim Brotherhood was declared by the Egyptian authorities to be an unlawful organisation. The exact charges against him are unclear as they were not read out in court.
Al-Fakharany has been deprived of his basic legal rights and was denied prompt access to his lawyers and relatives, or an opportunity to challenge the lawfulness of his detention after his arrest. He was held for weeks with his friends at a police station, sharing a cell with criminal prisoners, subjected to severe forms of humiliation and intimidation. Al-Fakharany was then transferred to Wadi El Natrun prison where he was abused and tortured.
Al-Fakharany was questioned without lawyers present. In addition, several investigation sessions by the prosecutor were held in police stations, prisons and Central Security Forces camps. The presence of security personnel in the vicinity could cast doubt over the impartiality of the investigations.
Al Fakharany is now detained at the reception center of Tora Prison “Istikbal Tora”. He was not brought before a judge within 24 hours, as required by Egyptian law, leading to extended detention periods of 45 days renewed automatically since the 25th of August, pending charges against him. Al Fakharany could remain years in jail without being trialed.
At first, the prosecution has not allowed for a copy of the investigation to be given to Al-Fakharany’s defense attorney, arguing that nearly 200 other persons are accused in the same case, but have not been arrested so far Later on, Al-Fakharany was accused of belonging to the “Rabaa Operation room. Fifty-two defendants are charged with “forming an operations room to direct the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood group to defy the government during the Rabaa sit-in dispersal and to spread chaos in the country,” according to a statement that was released by the prosecutor general’s office last month. Minutes of the investigations have been fabricated and published, accusing Al-Fakharany of “fabricating pictures and scenes that imply fatalities and injuries among demonstrators” during the violent dispersal of the pro-Mohamed Morsi sit-in at Rabaa Al-Adaweya on 14 August. The prosecution also alleged that the Brotherhood leaders “prepared false statements” to mislead the public. Al-Fakharani and 51 other defendants, including Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood Mohamed Badie, will stand trial on 1 April2014.
Blocking access to legal representation is a serious violation of human rights. Al-Fakharany must be given an effective opportunity to be heard promptly by a judicial officer in the presence of a legal representative. Article 14 of the Covenant requires that every defendant is tried in his or her presence, has the right to adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his or her defence and to communicate with counsel of his or her own choosing, and to examine (or have examined) prosecution witnesses. Lawyers have reportedly filed a case contesting the trial on the basis of procedural flaws.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) strictly prohibits arbitrary detention, stating that, “No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.” It says that everyone detained has the right to have the legality of their detention reviewed by a court, which should order their release if the detention is not lawful.
The failure of the Egyptian authorities to respect due process for people who have been arrested is a worrying sign. Everyone must be equal before the law. The Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights condemns strongly the arbitrary arrest of Abdullah Al-Fakharany in the light of the indications that he is targeted as a result of his human rights activities, and fears for his safety and physical and psychological well-being while in detention.
The Egyptian government has consistently failed over the past months to conduct independent and impartial investigations into well-documented, serious abuses committed by security forces.