Detained protestors stuck in courthouse limbo

Hazem Zohny , Thursday 27 Jan 2011

Detainees are haphazardly accused of varying offenses, some formally charged while many remain unidentified

The Hisham Mubarak Law Center held a press conference earlier today, drawing attention to the muddled conditions and accusations faced by detainees arrested during the last two days of protests.

Currently, 216 are confirmed to be held in police stations around Cairo, with another 65 in Alexandria, 25 in Suez, nine in Assuit, 91 in Mansoura, and 19 in Borolos. Many more are detained outside main cities and remain unidentified.

Tarek El-Awady, speaking at the conference, was one of 50 lawyers who were at the North Cairo Court from 9:00 pm last night till this afternoon. According to him, the legal proceedings of several detainees who were interrogated around 3:00 am this morning were a farce.

“These youths were being formally interrogated in court without an official complaint even being lodged against them by the state,” said El-Awady. When he and other lawyers asked to see any documented complaints, they were told they “hadn’t arrived yet.”

“The detainees were first accused of ‘demonstrating, sedition and assaulting police officers,’” said El-Awady. However, after lawyers complained that the accusations were too broad and not even directed at specific individuals, investigators later returned saying that the accusations had changed merely to “illegal weapons possessions.”

When lawyers demanded evidence, they were shown two detainees, not policemen, who appeared to be shot. “So apparently,” said El-Awady, “protestors had left the demonstration and began shooting each other.”

Also highlighted in the press conference was the haphazard release of some detainees. When two were freed last night “because they were students who had exams the next day,” lawyers told investigators that there were 25 other students held in the same police station, one of whom was suffering from cancer and polio. They were asked to write up a formal request for their release.

However, hours after submitting the request they were told that no more detainees would be released that night.

Finally, lawyers attending the press conference remarked on the reported death of riot policeman Ahmed Aziz. They noted that while state-media consistently stated that he was killed by protestors, a medical report showed that he had died of “natural causes,” most likely from standing for hours without food or water.

Currently, the Hisham Mubarak Law Center can confirm that 65 detainees in Alexandria are to be kept under arrest for an additional 15 days, as are 25 in Suez.

Lawyer Ahmed Seif El Islam noted that the law allows detainees to be kept for no more than four days, but that emergency laws allow for this 15-day extension without issuing formal charges.

Short link: