File Photo: Egyptian defendants sit behind bars during their trial at a police academy on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt, April 19, 2015. (Photo by AFP)
At least 1,464 people have exceeded their pre-trial detention limit inside prisons in Egypt, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Right said in an official report on Tuesday.
"The Detention Without End" report was released after several Egyptian prosecutions detained a group of protesters pending trial following their protests against the Egyptian-Saudi Red Sea islands agreement.
The number of detainees mentioned only represents four governorates, yet the group believes the number is much likely to be much higher.
The rights group fears that the detention "has become a tool of political punishment without trial or right of defence."
Established in 2002, EIPR's mission reads it has been working to strengthen and protect basic rights and freedoms in Egypt, and is supporting litigation in the fields of civil liberties and social rights.
Egyptian law stipulates a maximum pre-trial detention period of two years, except for cases where a death penalty or a life sentence was given and the case is being appealed.
For those two cases, pre-trial detention can be renewed indefinitely following an approved amendment to article 143 in 2013 by then-interim president Adly Mansour.
The law states that defendants in jail pending trial for charges that could lead to a verdict of execution or a life-sentence could have their detention extended for 45 day increments indefinitely until the trial is over.
According to EIPR, Egyptian law also stipulates specific conditions for the use of pre-trial detention as a preventative act: "if the defendant poses a "flight risk," if there is fear of evidence tampering or a comprised investigation, or if the defendant has no permanent address."
Yet the group believes the legal body has liberally used pretrial detention without regard for the specified conditions that are supposed to be met.
“Detainees have no way to challenge judges’ decisions to renew their pretrial detention orders beyond the two-year limit, and there is no authority except the Supreme Constitutional Court over judges’ divergent interpretations of the limit on pretrial detention," Hoda Nasrallah, a senior officer at EIPR said.
EIPR added that most of the detainees mentioned in the report were being tried in special terrorism and violence circuits in criminal circuits.
The persons discussed in the EIPR report are being held on charges of protesting and illegal assembly, assault of police personnel or public facilities, joining a banned group, membership of a group established in violation of the law, and murder or attempted murder during protests.
The rights group put forward a request to the government asking it to submit a formal request to the Supreme Constitutional Court for an interpretation of the legal provisions heading pretrial detention, "to end the suffering of hundreds of people arbitrarily imprisoned and secure their release."