Egyptian student who wore 'Nation without torture' shirt nears two years in prison

Hana Afifi , Monday 16 Nov 2015

The court will decide on Tuesday whether Mahmoud Mohamed Hussein will be released or will have his pre-trial detention renewed yet again

Mahmoud Mohamed
Mahmoud Mohamed (Photo: Courtesy of Tarek Mohamed Facebook)

A Cairo court has postponed till Tuesday the issuing of a decision regarding the detention of high-school student Mahmoud Mohamed Hussein, his older brother Tarek told Ahram Online.

Hussein's case garnered attention over what some believe was persecution by police over Hussein wearing a shirt adorned with an anti-torture slogan.

Hussein was arrested in January 2014 when he was 17 -- on the anniversary of the 25 January revolution of 2011 -- while passing through a northern Cairo checkpoint on his way home from a protest against "military rule" and the Muslim Brotherhood group.

Activists claim that Hussein, who is accused of possessing ammunition and illegal protesting (without police authorisation), was targeted by police for wearing a shirt with the words 'Nation without torture' written on it and a scarf with a 2011 uprising logo.

Monday marks 655 days of pre-trial detention for Hussein, now 19, with the court repeatedly renewing his detention for 15 or 45 days at a time, Hussein's brother says.

Social media users have been sharing pictures of Hussein on Monday, calling for his release and highlighting the number of days he has been detained pending trial.

On Tuesday, the court will decide whether Hussein will remain in pre-trial detention or will be released, in which case a bail requirement may be imposed, his lawyer Taher Abul-Nasr told Ahram Online, adding that it is likely Hussein's detention will be renewed.

No trial session has taken place for Hussein – currently in Cairo's Tora prison – since his arrest almost two years ago. Hussein's brother Tarek says he does not know why Hussein has not yet faced trial.

"At every court session held to decide on detention renewal, we ask [prosecutors] why the case has not yet been referred to the Criminal Court," Abul-Nasr stated, saying they never get an answer.

Amnesty International has launched a campaign to call for Hussein's release in the form of a petition addressing the public prosecutor.

"He is a prisoner of conscience held for more than 600 days solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression and assembly," the Amnesty petition says. "He has not been charged or tried for any offences and should be released immediately."

Amnesty also calls for opening an investigation into allegations that Hussein was tortured.

On 12 June, Amnesty published a letter written by Hussein's brother Tarek addressed directly to Hussein, where he details Hussein's arrest and the alleged torture he suffered in custody, as well as his parents' feeling about the ordeal and their hopes for his release.

"You've spent more than 500 days in jail, and my heart couldn't be sadder at the injustice that you and so many others like you are facing," Tarek's letter read.

Tarek attached to the letter a drawing that Hussein made while in detention depicting jailed human rights lawyer Mahienour El-Masry.

"My only solace is that you are keeping your spirits up by improving your drawing skills and corresponding with other detained activists."

According to Hussein's lawyer, prison authorities are no longer allowing Hussein access to drawing tools.

On 8 October, Amnesty published a note written by Hussein himself from prison.

"I don’t even know when my detention is going to end or why I was arrested in the first place," the letter read. "I don’t even know what case they have against me, since I have spent all this time in jail without charge or trial. When will this period end? So long as they view me as an accused person, it may not."

Egyptian law allows pre-trial detention to last up to two years.

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