A Cairo cassation court postponed Thursday the retrial of 38 sentenced defendants’, including 14 journalists, to 15 October, in the case known as the ‘Rabaa operations room’.
The detained journalists filed appeals on sentences to life imprisonment, and one death sentence. These include Rassd News Network board members Abdullah Al-Fakharany and Samhy Mostafa.
Along with the two Rassd journalists, Mohamed Al-Adly, a presenter on the Islamist Amgad channel, Mosaad Al-Barbary, head of Ahrar 25 channel, and Egyptian-American activist Mohamed Soltan were convicted.
Defence lawyer Ahmed Helmy said the defence team had submitted the memorandum for appeal within 60 days of the announcement of the verdict. Verdicts handed to all defendants who were not sentenced in absentia are to be appealed.
Currently serving their prison sentences, the journalists were accused of spreading false news and “forming an operations room to direct the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood to defy the government during the Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in dispersal and to spread chaos in the country”, according to the General Prosecution statement.
Further, writer for the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Freedom and Justice Party newspaper, Waleed Shalaby, received the death sentence in the case. He was arrested in August 2013 and reportedly placed in solitary confinement for six months.
Shalaby’s lawyer Ali Kamal told Daily News Egypt that usually the court decides on the appeal request in the same trial session.
Regarding the verdict, Kamal mentioned that it was severely flawed and lacked evidence. The lawyer also pointed out that the judge in the case adjudicated in some instances without listening to the entire defence.
“It is impossible to predict what will happen in such cases,” Kamal said, emphasising that neither the prisoners’ professions nor their health condition would be taken into consideration.
Amnesty International declared that the journalists were sentenced in an “unfair trial”, as they were convicted of “politically motivated” charges, including “broadcasting false information”, in a statement released 10 days ahead of the appeal
On the second anniversary of the dispersal of the Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Al-Nahda Square sit-ins, the family of Abdullah Al-Fakharany released a statement calling on people to stand in solidarity with the imprisoned journalist and to help in his release.
Al-Fakharany was arrested at Mohamed Soltan’s house on 25 August 2013, and has since been held in Tora Prison. Whilst in custody, it has been reported that Al-Fakharany was subjected to beatings, death threats from officers, and denied food.
The Cairo Criminal Court, headed by Judge Nagy Shehata, issued a verdict on the defendants of the ‘Rabaa operations room’ case on 11 April 2014.The case included 51 defendants, 37 of whom were handed life sentences, including 14 journalists and media professionals. The remaining 14 were handed death sentences, including Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie.
Additional reporting by Nourhan Fahmy