“Insulting the Ministry of Interior” is One of the Charges that Result in the Imprisonment of Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) and Activists

In Statements and Position Papers by CIHRS

mahenor2310On 31 May 2015, El-Raml Appeal Misdemeanor Court issued a verdict to imprison the woman human rights defender (WHRD) and lawyer Mahienour El-Masry as well as two other activists, Youssef Shaaban and Loay El-Kahwagy, for 15 months in the “El-Raml Police Station” case. The three have been imprisoned on 3 charges including “insulting the Ministry of Interior.”
The case dates back to an incident that occurred on 30 March 2013 when a member of the Muslim Brotherhood attacked an activist and took him to El-Raml Police Station with accusations that he was attempting to set fire to the premises of the Muslim Brotherhood. When a group of lawyers, including Mahienour El-Masry arrived at the police station in defense of the activist, a dispute with the police ensued, and the lawyers decided to stage a sit-in at the police station. The lawyers, however, were quickly attacked and detained for one day. On 9 February 2015, the El-Raml Misdemeanor Court issued a verdict of 2 years imprisonment against Mahienour El-Masry, Youssef Shaaban, Loay El-Kahwagy and 7 other activists, in addition to a fine of LE5000, in relation to the events of 30 March 2013. In the appeal verdict issued on 31 May 2015, the court ruled to imprison Mahienour El-Masry and the other activists on 3 charges of the following: 1) Rallying in front of and inside El-Raml Police Station (6 months); 2) Attempting to vandalize contents of the police station and police van (innocent); 3) Attacking police officers and staff (6 months); 4) Insulting the Ministry of Interior (3 months); and 5) Obstructing the workflow of El-Raml Police Station (innocent).
The undersigned organizations condemn the aforementioned verdict, and consider it as a sign of the state’s determination to continue punishing WHRDs and activists, by using vague accusations that often lack evidence. The state uses these accusations to punish WHRDs and activists for reporting on violations that take place by both state and non-state actors, sending a clear message that revolves around being silent about these violations; to further shrink public space, and to render state institutions and the Ministry of Interior untouchable.
It is worth mentioning that this is the second time in less than a year where WHRD Mahienour El-Massry has been sentenced, as she was previously sentenced to 2 years imprisonment in the case known as the “Khaled Saeed Demonstration” case. The Khaled Saeed Demonstration was organized by a number of WHRDs, HRDs, and political activists during the trial of one of the policemen accused of torturing and killing Khaled Saeed. The WHRDs, HRDs, and activists were charged with breaching the Protest and Public Assembly Law, and were sentenced to 2 years imprisonment by the Sidi Gaber Misdemeanor Court in May 2014, which the Sidi Gaber Appeal Misdemeanor Court lowered to 6 months imprisonment. In September 2014, Mahienour El-Massry was released after the submission of another challenge and until the Court of Cassation processes the case.
The undersigned organization state that there is an inclination for security authorities to fabricate a number of cases against WHRDs, HRDs and political activists, even if it reaches the extent of resorting to incidents that are extremely outdated, so they can be used anytime to imprison them. Unfortunately, investigating bodies and courts are complicit in this process by conducting investigations that rely only on police investigations or by ignoring guarantees for a fair trial and violating the rights of defense in court sessions.
The undersigned organizations demand that the Court of Cassation promptly process the case bearing in mind the legal violations that took place in the appeals court; to acquit those imprisoned in the concerned case immediately; to adhere to the Egyptian constitution that guarantees the right to a fair trial based on clear evidence and proof; open the public space for WHRDs and HRDs to conduct activities that respect ensuring human rights based on their belief in these rights; undertake the necessary measures and processes that render them citizens keen on ensuring rights and freedom for everyone; respect the activities they conduct that ensures justice in the country, in addition to respecting the conventions and international mechanisms and covenants that include the Universal Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, and the United Nations 2013 Resolution on Women Human Rights Defenders that ensure their right to activism in the public space and condemns their targeting.

Signed Organizations and Groups:

1. Nazra for Feminist Studies
2. Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Non-Violence Studies
3. Appropriate Communication Techniques for Development Center (ACT)
4. Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE)
5. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
6. Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance (CEWLA)
7. ElNadeem Center for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture
8. Hisham Mubarak Law Center
9. The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR)
10. The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights

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