The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) issued a statement on Wednesday denouncing “the faulty judgment” issued by Hadayek El Kobba Misdemeanour Court in Cairo to jail three members of Misr Al-Qawia (Strong Egypt) Party on charges of hanging banners and distributing leaflets calling for a No vote to the constitution, among other charges.
The three party members had been arrested one week before the referendum in January from Downtown Cairo while campaigning for No vote on the constitutional amendments.
Ahmad Badawi, Mohammed Abu Laila, and Sami Ashraf were sentenced to three years in prison with hard labour, in addition to paying an EGP 500 fine. On 16 January the trio were released on EGP 500 bail.
ANHRI’s statement stressed the organisation’s belief that “the ruling to jail citizens for trying to express their views is a clear violation of freedom of opinion and expression, [and of the] Egyptian Constitution, which [mandates]respect for freedom of speech.”
“It also proves that the Egyptian government deals with double standards; as it firstly encouraged people to vote No, and then it arrested those peacefully expressing their opinion by calling for a No vote,” it added.
The statement also criticised interim President Adly Mansour, who is a judge by profession, and said that the rulings reflect the “government’s lack of commitment to the democratic path.”
ANHRI called for a dropping of charges against Misr Al-Qawia members, the halt of what it described as the government crack down on its opposition, and an end to “a policy of repression which reflects that there is no intention to comply with the rights and freedoms stipulated in the constitution.”
The prosecutor general was not available for comment.