A Cairo court handed down a six-month prison sentence on Monday, to an activist arrested following a solidarity demonstration with striking industrial workers.
South Cairo Misdemeanour Court revoked a previous two-year prison sentence verdict on Ayman Al-Fakhri, who was arrested during the solidarity demonstration with workers from the Egyptian Iron and Steel Company in Helwan last December. Al-Fakhri is charged with “inciting workers to refrain from performing their duties and distributing literature”, according to the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR).
Al-Fakhri, a member of the socialist Bread and Freedom Party, was initially arrested on 3 December 2014 by police in front of the Helwan factory whilst workers were protesting. He was later interrogated by “unknown authorities” over his presence at the protest, according to Front Line Defenders rights group.
Mona Ezzat, media spokesperson of the Bread and Freedom Party, told Daily News Egypt: “The party condemns the ruling and considers it as part of a wider crackdown of politics and activism in the country.”
Following his arrest, Al-Fakhri’s case was subsequently transferred to the Prosecutor General and received the two year sentence on 9 December. The leaflets that he was found guilty of distributing were a petition on behalf Iron and Steel Workers’ Front calling for the withdrawal of the workers’ support from the Union Committee in the Egyptian Iron and Steel Company. The workers were demanding the payment of their share of company profits, improvements to working conditions and a change-over of the company’s administrative members.
Commenting on the case, the ECESR said: “Measures taken against leaders of workers’ movements and activists have constrained the struggles almost out of existence.”
In November 2013, interim president Adly Mansour issued the Protest Law, which effectively bans public demonstrations. Whilst industrial action on company premises is not prohibited by the Protest Law, amendments to the labour law issued subsequently by the Ministry of Labour illegalise strikes in the workplace.
Charges of illegal protesting have been used against thousands, including Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters, as well as high profile pro-democracy activists like Alaa Abdel Fattah, Ahmed Douma, Ahmed Maher, Sanaa Seif and Yara Sallam.