Egypt: Citizens’ lack of trust in the justice system is the real danger

In Egypt /Road Map Program, Statements and Position Papers by CIHRS

Renewed detention is latest development in the Hope Coalition Case

All defendants[1] in the Hope Coalition Case (no. 930 of 2019) had their detention renewed –for an additional 45 days – on Thursday November 28th, following three days of hearings in  the Cairo Criminal Court. As affirmed by former parliamentarian Zyad El-Eleaimy [2] of the Egyptian  Social Democratic Party, the renewal of pretrial detention in cases such as this “changes pretrial detention into a penalty,which “undermines citizens’ confidence in the role of justice.” If there is any “actual danger to the state” it comes not from citizens’ attempts to peacefully and lawfully participate in the political system but from “citizens’ lack of trust in the justice system.”

The signatories of this statement denounce the continued imprisonment of all defendants in the Hope Coalition Case, and reiterate their demand for their immediate release. The defendants are being punished by the Egyptian government for attempting to participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections through legally-sanctioned means; a vengeful closure of the political sphere that is not only an imminent danger to the fundamental rights and freedoms of the defendants, but is also an alarming forfeiture of peaceful and lawful participation in the political process.  This may have dangerous implications, warned Hisham Fouad – a journalist, labor activist, and defendant in the case – during the September hearing.  He cautioned that the state’s repressive security-reliant polices combined with its fabrication of terrorism charges against peaceful opposition all serve to exacerbate terrorism:

“The current regime is helping actual terrorist groups to achieve their goals….”  Incarcerating citizens “without any evidence is not a solution in fighting terrorism, but entrenches it even deeper.”

Despite the defendants’ well-known affiliations with liberal, leftist and secular political parties[3], the prosecution alleged they belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood. This marked the first time in this case that Muslim Brotherhood membership was proffered as the rationale behind the defendants’ continued imprisonment, an allegation rendered even more outlandish by the fact that the defendants have well-documented public stances against the Muslim Brotherhood, abundantly evidenced by newspaper articles, television interviews, and official testimonies. Zyad El-Eleaimy to begin his plea during the hearing:

 “Finally, after 155 days, I am notified of which group I belong to, as explained to me by the prosecutor. Throughout the investigation sessions, I’ve wondered about the group I’m accused of belonging to. This question was never answered by prosecution up until now, before your esteemed institution.” 

On top of the prosecution’s illogical allegation justifying the defendants’ renewed detention, it is also failed to provide any evidence to support this allegation: with neither case documents nor evidence other than that provided by the state security investigations.  The prosecution even went against the court’s original decision (on November 27th) to release five of the defendants, in its relentless insistence on committing violations since the onset of this case.

These violations include the forcible disappearance of at least seven defendants and the torture and inhumane treatment of eight defendants, including electric shocks, beatings, and threats. Hossam Mo’anes, one of the founders of the leftist Egyptian Popular Current Party, testified to forcible sleep deprivation (including being forced to sleep on ‘wooden boards’), and the denial of exercise and visitation. Hisham Fouad also reported on poor detention conditions in terms of a lack of ventilation and the denial of healthcare; he had been denied medical treatment for back and joint ailments.  El-Eleaimy testified to being denied healthcare to treat his rare autoimmune disease, despite providing the required documentation substantiating the urgent necessity of this treatment.

The grave injustice suffered by the defendants in the Hope Coalition Case is representative of the injustice suffered by countless Egyptians at the mercy of the state’s fundamentally flawed judiciary- a judiciary that systematically and excessively violates all due process guarantees while ardently avoiding any act that may fall within the scope of justice or fairness. Routine practices of Egypt’s so-called justice system include: the exclusive reliance on state security investigations as evidence; the indefinite extension of pre-trial detention and police probation, the relinquishment of defendants’ rights, and ignoring evidence of torture , ill-treatment and forcible interrogation. This sundry of violations inevitably leads to unjust convictions, including convictions issued in mass trials and resulting in execution.

Signatory Organizations

  • Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
  • Belady Center for Rights and Freedoms
  • Nadeem Center
  • Egyptian Front for Human Rights
  • Committee of Justice
  • Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
  • Freedom Initiative Organization

[1] Including five defendants who had been released on November 27, which the prosecution successfully appealed, resulting in a renewal of their detention along with the other defendants.

[2] In his recorded objection during last October’s session

[3] Such as the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, Egyptian Popular Current, Istiqlal Party, and Revolutionary Socialists Movement.

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