"The mere fact they are back in the dock following Mohamed Morsi's removal is yet another ominous signal of the authorities' determination to stamp out dissent and deter people from across the political spectrum from speaking out."
In March the activists, along with nine others, were referred to trial on charges of arson, theft, damaging property, using violence and endangering "public safety" during an attack on the headquarters of Ahmed Shafiq in the run-up to the second round of presidential elections pitting him against Mohamed Morsi.
The prosecution relied heavily on alleged eyewitness testimony of the head of police investigations, casting doubt on its impartiality and credibility. The six other testimonies used to substantiate charges against the activists included people, many of whom have criminal records or are facing pending criminal investigations. As such, they are more susceptible to pressure and manipulation by the police and prosecuting authorities.
Only one prosecution witness appeared in court despite the defence's request to cross-examine the other alleged eyewitnesses. This witness testified that he had seen Alaa Abdel Fattah near the scene of the crime, but acknowledged he had not seen him holding any weapons or committing violence. He admitted not recognizing the other defendants.
Despite requests from the defence, no audiovisual or other material evidence linking the defendants to the crime was presented.
Several defence witnesses provided alibis for the accused, testifying that they were not present near the Shafiq headquarters at the time it was attacked.
"An alarming trend has emerged of flawed judicial proceedings and selective justice. Egyptian courts acquit members of the security forces charged with killing protesters while imposing heavy prison terms on peaceful protesters. If the public's trust in the independence and impartiality of Egyptian justice is to be restored, the court must judge this case on its merits, adhering to international fair trial standards, and not bow to political pressures ," said Said Boumedouha.
Alaa Abdel Fattah has been detained since 28 November 2013, charged with participating in an "unauthorized" protest in front of the Shura Council on 26 November. Amnesty International believes he is a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for his peaceful exercise of his rights to freedom of expression and assembly. His sister, Mona Seif, was arrested and beaten during that protest, but released hours later without charge. The remaining defendants are at liberty pending the verdict.