'Cabinet clashes' mass trial adjourned until 4 August

El-Sayed Gamal El-Din, Wednesday 9 Jul 2014

269 activists, including Ahmed Douma, are accused of violence and arson connected to the dispersal of a sit-in outside the Egyptian cabinet building in December 2011

Political activist Ahmed Douma of the 6 April movement looks on behind bars in Cairo, December 22, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)

Cairo Criminal Court has adjourned until 4 August the trial of 269 people, including prominent activist Ahmed Douma.

They are accused of attacking the cabinet building and security personnel in December 2011.

According to Ahram Online`s reporter, the jury postponed the trial on Wednesday in order to listen to the remaining testimonies.

The defendants are also accused of torching the Scientific Institute in downtown Cairo.

On 16 December 2011, troops forcibly dispersed a three-week-long sit-in at the cabinet building. At least 18 were killed and hundreds injured in the violence which spanned five days, now referred to as the cabinet clashes.

The sit-in began on 25 November 2011 to protest military rule by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and the appointment of Kamal El-Ganzouri – a former premier under autocrat Hosni Mubarak – as interim prime minister.

Military leaders claimed "soldiers did not open fire on protesters," and accused demonstrators of initiating the violence.

However, video footage of the forced dispersal showed soldiers beating protesters. Among the incidents caught on film was a female activist being beaten and dragged in the street by soldiers and stripped of her clothes.

Douma, one of the defendants, is a member of the Egyptian Popular Current movement, which is led by Hamdeen Sabahi – the only candidate to challenge Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi in May's presidential election.

In a separate trial in December, Douma and other prominent activists Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel were convicted of assaulting police officers and organising illegal protests, as per a law issued late last year which bans demonstrations not pre-approved by the police.

Douma, who went on a hunger strike in December to protest "inhumane" jail conditions, is in poor health, and there is an ongoing campaign for him to receive appropriate medical care for a serious digestive condition.

Activists have criticised what they describe as the authorities' negligence towards Douma's deteriorating condition.

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