Trial adjourned for activist Abdel-Fattah, 24 others

Ahram Online , Sunday 23 Nov 2014

Defendants are facing a retrial for breaking Egypt's controversial protest law

Alaa Abdel-Fattah
Egypt’s most prominent activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah arrives outside a court that convicted 23 activists of staging an illegal demonstration and sentenced them each to three years in jail, in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014 (Photo: AP)

A Cairo criminal court adjourned to Wednesday the trial of 25 Egyptian activists, including Alaa Abdel-Fattah, on charges including taking part in an illegal protest late last year, a judicial source has said.

The defendants were sentenced to 15 years in prison in June for violating a widely criticised protest law that bans demonstrations without a prior permit. The appeal of the sentence collapsed on 15 September after the presiding judge stepped down, and all the defendants were freed on bail pending a new retrial.

Abdel-Fattah was ordered back to jail on 27 October at the start of the retrial. The court also ordered that all other defendants be arrested.

During Sunday's hearing, at least three of the defendants were allowed to step out of their glass cages to address the court.

The trial was adjourned to allow the hearing of arguments from the defence, the source added.

Abdel-Fattah's defence demanded that the prosecution investigate an incident from the appeals trial in September when a home video allegedly showing Abdel-Fattah's wife belly dancing at a party was presented as evidence, arguing that it amounts to a crime of invasion in his personal life.

The defence also called for the retrieval of two laptops belonging to Abdel-Fattah and his wife as well as the latter's cell phone which were seized without a permit during the activist's arrest, on the grounds that the items are unrelated to the case.

The defendants are also accused of assaulting a policeman and using force to take his radio, inciting riots, blocking traffic and vandalising public property.

Sunday's trial session resumed the airing of video evidence from cameras at the upper house of parliament where the protest took place.

The immensity of the footage – 11 gigabybes worth of video – forced the court to extend the viewing session to Sunday, Mohamed Mahmoud, defence lawyer in the trial, said.

Abdel-Fattah, 32, was at the forefront of the uprising against long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011. He later backed the 2013 overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, but turned against the new authorities to protest their crackdown on dissent.

His sister, Sanaa Seif, along with 22 other defendants, was sentenced in October to three years in prison by a separate court on similar charges.

Washington said it was "deeply troubled" by the recent sentences handed down to political activists.

Since Morsi's removal, the authorities have mounted a harsh crackdown on Islamists, in which hundreds have been killed in street violence and thousands of others rounded up. Non-Islamist activists have not been spared, with dozens arrested under the 2013 protest law which rights groups have denounced as repressive.

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