Egypt court postpones 'cabinet clashes' trial of Douma, 268 others

El-Sayed Gamel El-Din, Monday 23 Jun 2014

Defendants are accused of violence and arson connected to the dispersal of a sit-in by the Egyptian cabinet headquarters in December 2011

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

The trial of 269 people, including prominent activist Ahmed Douma, on charges of attacking the Egyptian cabinet building and security personnel in December 2011 has been postponed to 9 July.

The postponement is to allow the jury to listen to testimonies, said Ahram Online's reporter.

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

On 16 December 2011, military forces forcibly dispersed a three-week-long sit-in at the cabinet buildings. 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 that "soldiers did not open fire on protesters," accusing demonstrators of initiating the violence.

However, video footage of the forced dispersal showed army soldiers beating protesters. Among the incidents caught on film was a female activist 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 last month's presidential election which brought the former army chief to power.

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 terms, 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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