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Amnesty International demands ‘immediate and unconditional’ release of activists

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Human rights group along, with friends and family, reiterate support for Maher, Adel and Douma

Egyptian activists Ahmed Maher (L) and Ahmed Douma hold up a T-shirt reading Drop the law on demonstrations during their trial in Cairo over an unlicensed protest on 8 December 2013 (AFP File Photo/ Mahmoud Khaled )

Egyptian activists Ahmed Maher (L) and Ahmed Douma hold up a T-shirt reading Drop the law on demonstrations during their trial in Cairo over an unlicensed protest on 8 December 2013
(AFP File Photo/ Mahmoud Khaled )

The conviction and detention of 6 April activists Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel and well-known blogger Ahmed Douma for defying the Protest Law must be overturned “immediately and unconditionally” said human rights defender Amnesty International.

Ahead of a Monday appeal for all three men, Amnesty International released a statement saying the trio, sentenced to three years in prison with hard labour and an EGP 50,000 fine, were arrested unfairly and faced beatings and torture at the hands of police officers while in prison.

The activists were arrested for holding a 30 November demonstration without permission and attacking police officers outside Cairo’s Abdeen Courthouse. The protest was dispersed with teargas security forces after clashes broke out.

According to Amnesty International, during the demonstrations Maher and Douma were inside the courthouse being investigated for a separate 27 November protest, while “Adel was seen by witnesses trying to calm protestors outside the court”, with a police officer going so far as to testify that Adel assisted a security officer affected by tear gas.

Maher was arrested at the Abdeen Courthouse during his investigation30 November, while Douma was arrested on 2 December at his home, and Adel was detained during a late-night raid at Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, where he works as an attorney.

“The three men said they were beaten by security officials during their appeal hearing last month, with Mohamed Adel and Ahmed Douma showing marks of beatings on their hands, legs and stomach. Mohamed Adel also told his lawyers he was beaten during his arrest and while being held in an unknown location for at least four days following his arrest,” said Amnesty International.

In a Saturday press conference, Douma’s wife Nourhan Mostafa, and his friend, Ahmed Shahine, also called for Douma’s release.

Mostafa said that Douma suffers from digestive problems including an ulcer, and his health has been deteriorating since his incarceration.

His first physician in prison suggested that he be treated at an outside hospital, while subsequent prison doctors have denied his digestive condition and have prescribed pills for anxiety, said Mostafa.

Shahine said that Douma’s arrest was in retaliation to his open opposition to government policies since the 3 July ouster of Mohamed Morsi.

The 27 November demonstration, for which Maher and Douma were being investigated at the Abdeen Courthouse, occurred in front of the Shura Council. A group of dozens was protesting a constitutional article that allows for military trials for civilian under certain circumstances.  Protesters at the scene claim that the gathering was peaceful until it was dispersed using water cannons and teargas by security officials implementing the Protest Law, ratified by interim President Adly Mansour less than a week earlier.

Articles 12 and 13 of the contreversial Protest Law authorize security forces to use water cannons, batons, and teargas. If the situation escalates, security forces “should fire warning shots”, are then authorized to use rubber bullets, birdshot, or “means proportional to the danger imposed”.

“The Egyptian authorities must investigate the beatings alleged to have taken place inside the court and during arrest and detention and bring those responsible to justice,” said Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director of Amnesty International Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

“The increasing reports of torture and other ill-treatment inside Egyptian police stations and prisons are deeply disturbing.”

The protest law has drawn much ire from international and domestic human rights groups, with the United States State Department urging Egypt to “respect individual rights”. Amnesty International has called the Protest Law, and the frequent arrests of journalists, demonstrators and political dissidents an attempt by the Egyptian government to muzzle any voices of dissent in the country.

About the author

Aaron T. Rose

Aaron T. Rose is an American journalist in Cairo. Follow him on Twitter: @Aaron_T_Rose


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