Student detained over anti-torture shirt awaits detention renewal session

Nourhan Fahmy
3 Min Read
Mahmoud Mohamed Hussein, 19, was wearing a t-shirt that read ‘A nation without torture’ on the third anniversary of the 25 January Revolution when he was arrested. (credit: Public domain)

The detained teenager, Mahmoud Mohamed Hussein, who was arrested for wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with “Nation Without Torture”, is scheduled to appear for a detention renewal session on Monday.

Hussein has been detained for over 550 days in a case centring on the t-shirt that he wore on the third anniversary of the 25 January Revolution.

According to his brother, Tarek, there are no expectations when it comes to the renewal sessions, since it is an “illogical, repetitive procedure”.

“There are several steps that we are planning to take. There is a petition being signed, that is currently at 75,000 [signatures], but we are still waiting to reach a higher number and then present it to several bodies, including the Foreign Ministry’s office in London,” Tarek said. “We are also working with national as well as international rights groups.”

Hussein, 19, was arrested on his way home from a protest against military rule and the Muslim Brotherhood, and has yet to be charged or tried for any offences. His pre-trial detention has been repeatedly renewed by court order, with the trial itself delayed more than 24 times, according to previous statements by his defence lawyer Mokhtar Mounir. The lawyer attributed responsibility for the prolonged detention to the Interior Ministry, with each delay averaging from about five to seven days.

The use of pre-trial detentions has long been a contested issue in the Egyptian legal system, and has been repeatedly criticised as an abusive tool of repression.

Mounir added that, following the latest legislative amendments passed by the cabinet, the number of days in which a person can be held in detention before trial has become unlimited. He added that he perceives the change as “unconstitutional”.

The case has been picked up by activists and rights groups internationally, with prominent international NGO Amnesty International also campaigning on the case.

Amnesty International has called on President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and the Egyptian authorities to “release prisoner of conscience Mahmoud Hussein immediately and unconditionally and for all charges against him to be dropped, as he is detained solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression and assembly”.

There are many cases of prolonged pre-trial detention, including that of photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid, also known as Shawkan, who has been detained for over two years without trial. Shawkan was arrested while covering the security forces’ dispersal of the Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Al-Nahda Square sit-ins in August 2013.

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