Additional information about the defendants present in court
Alaa Abdel Fattah is a well-known blogger and political activist who has been harassed by successive Egyptian governments.
During the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), he was arrested on 13 November 2011 on charges of participating in violence during protests in front of the Maspero television building in Cairo, which led to the deaths of 27 people. He was detained until his release pending investigation in December 2011. Amnesty International believes that Alaa Abd El Fattah was targeted by the SCAF because of his leading role as a blogger and activist. No convincing evidence was ever presented to substantiate the charges against him, which were finally dropped in April 2012.
During the presidency of Mohamed Morsi, he was summoned for questioning by the public prosecution in relation to protests in front of the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo on 22 March.
In relation to the case of the burning of Ahmed Shafiq's headquarters, he told the court that he did not participate in the protest in front of the headquarters, and heard the news about the attack after it happened.
Mona Seif is one of the founders of Egypt's "No to Military Trials" movement and was a runner up in the 2013 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. She was arrested and beaten by members of the armed forces during a sit-in in front of the Egyptian Cabinet offices in December 2011.
She was arrested on 26 November 2013 along with dozens of others in front of the Shura Council during a protest calling for provisions allowing for the military trial of civilians to be excluded from the constitution. She remained in security forces' custody along with a group of other female protesters until she was dumped on a desert road at 1am on 27 November without charge.
In relation to the case of the burning of Ahmed Shafiq's headquarters, she explained that she was in a different area of Cairo at the time of the attack.
Ahmed Abdallah is a prominent member of the 6 April Youth Movement. The group played a key role in the "25 January Revolution" which led to the removal of Hosni Mubarak. Initially he supported Mohamed Morsi's candidacy during the second round of Egypt's presidential elections in 2012 against Ahmed Shafiq, but he and the movement grew increasingly critical of his policies. Ahmed Abdallah has continued to actively denounce ongoing human rights abuses. Following the ousting of Mohamed Morsi, he co-founded the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, a group which documents and denounces human rights violations.
He told Amnesty International, and the court, that he was not present in front of Shafiq's headquarters at the time of the attack.
One of the founders of the 6 April Youth Movement and its former head, Ahmed Maher, was sentenced to three years imprisonment and heavy fines on 22 December along with another 6 April member, Mohamed Adel, and another activist, Ahmed Douma, on charges of participating in an "unauthorized" protest and "attacking" security forces on duty on 30 November. The charges relate to a protest by Ahmed Maher's supporters outside the Abdeen Misdemeanours Court building on 30 November, when the activist turned himself in to the Prosecution for questioning about an "unauthorized" protest three days earlier outside the Shura Council. The security forces clashed with protesters during the demonstration, but lawyers told Amnesty International that at the time of the clashes with security forces Ahmed Maher was being questioned by the Office of the Public Prosecutor inside the court and Ahmed Douma was inside the court as well. Amnesty International considers them prisoners of conscience detained solely for their peaceful political activism.
The human rights situation in Egypt has suffered a number of recent setbacks. On 24 November, the government adopted and immediately used a new repressive assembly law which essentially bans protests without Ministry of Interior approval, grants wide discretionary powers to security forces to forcibly disperse peaceful protests, and treats peaceful protesters like criminals. Those critical of the authorities' actions found themselves arrested, beaten, and judicially harassed. Most recently, on 2 January, a court in Alexandria sentenced seven activists to two years in prison and heavy fines for participating in an "unauthorized" protest late last year. Four activists are currently in detention. In another alarming incident, on 18 December, a group of armed security force personnel, reportedly numbering about 50, raided the headquarters of well known human rights NGO, the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights, arresting, torturing and ill-treating six people, before releasing five without charge.