Alexandrian lawyer Mahienour El-Massry’s prison sentence is part of the targeting of human rights defenders through the use of “oppressive legislations”, a group of human rights organisations said on Wednesday.
The Mansheya Misdemeanour Court primarily upheld on Tuesday a ruling sentencing El-Massry to two years in prison and an EGP 50,000 fine for taking part in a protest in solidarity with torture victim Khaled Said on 2 December 2013. The protest was scheduled to take place during the trial of two former police officers charged with torturing and killing Said.
The same court scheduled on Wednesday a session on 28 June to appeal El-Massry’s prison sentence.
Eighteen human rights organisations condemned the imprisonment of El-Massry in a joint statement released on Wednesday. The organisations included the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, and the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights.
The organisations stressed that the Protest Law, under which El-Massry was sentenced, was issued in the absence of an elected parliament and “created especially to target and punish the opposition and those who highlight ongoing human rights violations”. They called for revising the law and all the rulings that are based on it.
The signatory organisations strictly warned against subjecting El-Massry to “the usual violations exercised by the authorities… such as torture”.
The organisations stated that during Tuesday’s court session, El-Massry’s lawyer was unable to put forward his defence. They added that the lawyer was also unable to present his legal arguments to the prosecution during the investigation.
Hamdy Khalaf, an Alexandrian lawyer who attended Tuesday’s session, said El-Massry’s defence lawyer Abdel Rahman Al-Gohary requested that the court allow him to view the legal case and present his legal argument, a request which was disregarded.
“The judge ruled on the case without giving El-Massry’s defence [lawyer] the chance to present his legal argument,” Khalaf said, describing the defence’s request as “essential” and adding that the judge’s refusal to entertain the request is “disastrous”.
El-Massry was initially sentenced with eight others on 2 January by the Raml Misdemeanour Court for violating the highly controversial Protest Law. Only four of the defendants were sentenced in session. El-Massry challenged her primary verdict, since she was sentenced in absentia; her challenge was turned down and she was therefore taken into custody on Tuesday. She is currently imprisoned in Al-Abaadeya Prison in the northern city of Damanhour in Beheira.
Six charges were pressed against the group of nine defendants: protesting without prior notice, assembly, assaulting security personnel, vandalising public property, and possession of unlicensed weapons.
Outside the court on 2 December, clashes resulted in the temporary postponing of the session. The clashes erupted during a protest organised by several activists against the Ministry of Interior. The protest was reportedly organised by torture victim Said’s mother, who refused to seek permission from the Ministry of Interior in accordance with the Protest Law.