Geneva - On Saturday, 11 April 2015, the Criminal Court in Cairo, Egypt, sentenced 14 journalists and human rights activists to death and another 37 to life imprisonment. The punishments were imposed after the individuals already had been imprisoned for more than 18 months, in violation of Egyptian law. According to the Egyptian Code of Criminal Procedure and its amendments, preventive arrest must not exceed 18 months (except in death penalty cases, which does not apply to most of the accused).
Despite a legal appeal, however, the court proceeded. Despite a file of approximately 100 pages, the punishments were handed down after only 10 minutes. Ten more defendants continue to await sentencing and two have been referred to private pleadings.
Among the 37 individuals given a life sentence was Abdullah al-Fakharani, a Euro-Mid researcher. The Egyptian prosecutor charged him with fabricating and disseminating false news reports harming the reputation of Egypt. When these accusations could not be proven, the case was expanded to include other defendants, described as senior leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood who were participating in a criminal conspiracy to overthrow the government and destroy public property—charges denied even under harsh interrogation.
In light of these highly irregular actions, the undersigned declare the following:
- All rulings of the Egyptian court in this case are flagrant violationsof justice
- None of the basic requirements of a fair trial have been met; the detaineeswere not even allowed to be present during the deliberations and when the sentence was announced.
- It is clear that all resoluations of the court in this case are of a political nature, with no valid legal grounds.
- It is suspected that judge Naji Shehata is neither independentnor impartial. During the hearing, he himself stated that he was convinced the defendants are guilty, allowing no chance for the detainees to present their side of the story. Likewise, Shehata is known to have issued hundreds ofexecutionsin Egypt during theprevious few months.
We call for:
- Reconsideration of the actions of the court, allowing immediate release of the detainees and payment of just compensation.
- The replacement of Judge Shehata due to his lackof impartiality.
- The intervention of the SpecialHigh Commissionertothe United Nationsfor Human Rights, Special Rapporteur onArbitrary Detention and Special Rapporteur onHuman Rights Defenders.
Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, Geneva
2- The International Center for Justice and Human Rights, Geneva
3- Rights for All, Geneva
4- Solidarity with Human Rights, Geneva
5- Alliance International Organization for Human Rights, Brussels International/AFD
6- European Alliance for Human Rights, Paris
7- International Federal for Rights and Development, Rome
8- Society for the Victims of Torture in Tunisia, Geneva
9- International Society for Human Friends, Vienna
10-Sergeantfor Human Rights, London
11-Free Voice, Paris
12-Freedom & Justice, Tunisia
13-Justice Organization, Sweden