Egyptian public figures from diverse and opposing political and social backgrounds stood together in one trial Saturday, as the Cairo Criminal Court held their first session on accusations of ‘insulting the judiciary.’
The trial was postponed to 27 July. They are on trial due to their having been public officials when they allegedly made such statements to the media and public in 2012 and 2013.
The case has a total of 25 defendants, among whom some are ‘fugitives’, others detained and some released pending trial. Unusually, former president Mohamed Morsi was in the same cage along with opposition activist Alaa Abdel Fattah.
Only those in police custody attended the trial. According to state-run newspaper Al-Ahram, the court ordered the arrest of solely Muslim Brotherhood defendants who were absent, including Assem Abdul Maged and Mamdouh Ismail.
The group is the most diverse in post-30 June political trials. It includes politicians, lawyers, and journalists from different political affiliations: secular and Islamists, revolutionaries and pro-former regimes. The case includes Morsi’s aides on the one hand, together with activists, journalists and politicians all in disagreement with either the Muslim Brotherhood, or each other.
These include Muslim Brotherhood leaders Mohamed El-Beltagy, Saad El-Katatny, Essam Sultan, as well as supporting Islamist preachers ‘on-the-run’ Wagdy Ghoneim and Yusuf Al-Qaradawi.
On the other hand, it also involves political scientist Amr Hamzawy, journalist Abdul Halim Qandil, unsympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood, along with controversial TV host and owner of Al-Faraeen channel Tawfik Okasha, who attacks nearly all political currents.
Other defendants are former MP Hamdy El-Fakharany and pro-Brotherhood judge Mahmoud El-Khodeiry, who is the former deputy head of the Egyptian Court of Cassation.
All defendants are facing charges of “insulting the judiciary, making offensive comments to judges, interfering with trials and judicial decisions, mostly regarding Hosni Mubarak’s cases”.
According to the Penal Code, insulting the judiciary is defined under “assault on public officials doing their job”, an offence punishable by prison and a fine. The assault is identified as having taken place through a sign, speech or threat, either directly or by other means of communication.
However, what is considered “offensive” is not elaborated in the law. The felony is punishable by a prison sentence between six months and one year, and a fine between EGP 200 to EGP 500. In the case of committing the offence through mass media, the penalty is stricter, up to EGP 10,000.