Farmers protest against arrests at the Supreme Court in Egypt

Salma Shukrallah, Monday 13 Jun 2011

The ten arrested on Wednesday are released without bail, but the case continues

Photo: Mai Shaheen

Tens of famers gathered at the Supreme Court on Monday condemning the arrests of six of their counterparts. Others also joined in solidarity with workers and students arrested. The ten individuals arrested on Wednesday were released shortly after the protest without the previously set bail of LE10,000 each.

“The rights of the workers and farmers are our path of struggle,” chanted the demonstrators who had gathered outside the court to condemn Wednesday's arrests.

The demonstrators were furious over the prosecutor-general’s decision, announced on Sunday, to set a bail of LE10,000 as a condition for the release of those arrested. “Ten thousand is an incapacitating condition,” shouted the protestors.

“The farmers are the weakest faction of society. When we believed that freedom is here and that our chance has come to voice our rights, we were met with arrests,” said Hassan Mohamed Omar, a brother of one of those arrested. Omar’s brother, together with five other farmers, was arrested during a sit-in staged on Wednesday during which farmers demanded lower land rents and the right to maintain ownership over their land.  

Those arrested face charges, including congregation, obstruction of traffic, damage to private and public property and the assault of a soldier. The farmers deny these allegations.

“How could the farmers arrested be accused of blocking the street between 12 and 4pm if they were being interrogated in the police station at 3?” exclaimed one of the members of the farmers' union.

Lawyer Haitham Mohamadein explained to Ahram Online that against common belief, the farmers, workers and students arrested are being tried using the terrorism law and not the anti-strike law recently approved by the current ruling military council and widely condemned by rights activists as undemocratic.

Mohamadein said “the terrorism law which was issued in 1992 to fight armed Islamist organisations is now being used in this case, under the claim that the demonstrators used violence. It is the first time that this law is used against strikes. The law 124, which was used against strikes in the past, is no longer in use because it conflicts with the international agreement signed by Egypt in 1981 that recognises strikes and demonstrations as a right.”

The protesters were dispersed shortly after a lawyer announced that the ten arrested had been released without bail. The LE10,000 set as a condition for their release was successfully appealed by lawyers on Monday. However, the case itself against the farmers, workers and students is on-going.

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