Qasr Al-Nil Misdemeanour Court set the date for 31 March to issue a verdict in the trial case of 68 protesters who were arrested in downtown Cairo on the fourth anniversary of the 25 January Revolution, on protest charges.
In a court session Tuesday held at Tora Police Institute, the judge listened to defence lawyers who included prominent rights’ lawyer Khaled Ali. Ali argued that violation of the Protest Law occurs in three steps.
“The punishment by the Protest Law applies in a case where first there is a public assembly, and that the assembly is of non-peaceful nature or endangers public safety, and finally that the protesters refuse to obey police warning to disperse the assembly,” Ali argued.
According to Article 12 of the Protest Law related to dispersal of a public assembly, security forces are to issue several verbal warning using a microphone before interfering with the use of tear gas or water on protesters.
Meanwhile, other defence lawyers stated the illegitimacy of the arrest procedures of the defendants. Their major claim was that no police records allowed lawyers, prosecution authorities or even court to identify the security officials who made the arrests to bring them to question.
Rights’ lawyer Mostafa Mahmoud also stated that police statements were conflicting regarding the time and location of arrests. “If they had been arrested in Ramses Street as claimed by police reports, we would not be standing before this court, but the court of the Azbakia district,” he argued.
Mahmoud added that those responsible for the arrests are an important missing part of the case since there was no physical evidence inculpating the defendants.
For his part, rights’ lawyer Mohamed Fathy pointed out that the crime of a public assembly was incomplete, proving the impossibility of any personal relations between the protesters.
Finally, Ali had also stressed on the illegal post-arrest procedures followed by authorities such as detention and questioning in an illegitimate detention centre, in addition to beating and torture of the protesters.
Defence human rights’ lawyer Sameh Samir told Daily News Egypt before the trial that most defendants in this case were arrested randomly. “Police officers check people’s IDs on the streets. Usually, they arrest those who have addresses in governorates outside Cairo,” Samir said.
Charges in the case include an illegal public assembly, thuggery and violence and assaulting security officers. Samir explained that protest cases are usually categorised as misdemeanours, with the exception of a few cases, where the defendants are accused of firearms possession.
In total 80 people were arrested, of which 12 minors were acquitted last week.
The case includes four members of the leftist “Bread and Freedom” Party, among which there is one female defendant. Among them also is Mohamed Douma, who belongs to a group of protesters who were injured during the 25 January Revolution.
Activists Mona Ezzat and media officer for the party told Daily News Egypt Tuesday that there have been numerous unsuccessful attempts to release Douma due to his health condition. “Douma is blind and he suffers a problem in the chest due to birdshot he had received once.” Ezzat stated.
Ezzat added that the state-affiliated National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) checked Douma’s condition and submitted reports to the authorities, and so did lawyers but in vain.
Defendants in the case are detained either in the police station of Qasr Al-Nil or the prison of Abu Za’abal. This comes as defence lawyer Samir believes such cases are not of big legal or judicial importance to authorities, as much as they are about “sending a message.”
“The state just wants to show that the executive security body is present and effective, to scare off people. The proof is that on many instances protesters are detained for a few hours and questioned then released. At the end any person will think twice before protesting on the streets,” Samir stated.
On every commemoration day of the revolution, protesters get arrested, despite that many of their demands date back to the time of the revolution, such as retribution to the victims and injured.