CAIRO: Prison sentences handed out to 22 people accused of crimes during the events of April 6 and 7 in Mahalla have been condemned by local and international rights organizations.
The Tanta Emergency State Security Court on Monday handed down prison sentences of between three and five years to the group for offences including assault, theft and possession of illegal weapons.
It acquitted 27 of the group of 49 on trial, prompting allegations from defense lawyers that the verdict seeks to please both the regime and opposition forces and had little to do with the culpability of those convicted.
Rights group Amnesty International termed the convicted individuals “scapegoats, in a statement issued Tuesday.
Those sentenced are scapegoats used by the authorities to hide their inability to adequately handle the Mahalla protests and to cover up for their failure to investigate the killing of three people, including a 15-year-old-boy, said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa deputy program director.
Three people were killed in Mahalla when central security forces violently put down protests against rising food prices.
Ahmed Ali Mabrouk, aged 15, was shot dead while standing in the third floor balcony of his home. No inquiry had been carried out into his death, nor the deaths of the two other men killed during the protests.
Rights groups criticized the police’s heavy-handed use of force – including live ammunition – against protestors.
Convicted in an emergency state security court, the men found guilty do not have the right of appeal.
Amnesty condemns the use of exceptional courts which “flout basic guarantees for a fair trial and denies defendants the right to appeal.
We urge the Egyptian authorities to stop undermining the ordinary criminal justice system by using extraordinary emergency courts that entrench human rights abuses, including torture, said Hadj Sahraoui.
Local rights group the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) criticized the use of military courts and emergency state security courts to try civilians, calling it a “gross violation of the right to stand before an independent court and appeal to a higher court in a statement issued on Monday.
In its statement EOHR calls for the group of 22 convicted on Monday to be re-tried before an ordinary court, and urges an end to the state of emergency in force since 1981.
Under the Emergency Law individuals accused of certain criminal offenses may be transferred to emergency state security courts which lawyers say lack the basic procedural guarantees of a fair trial.