24 May 2014

Egyptian Activist Abdel Fattah's Recusal Request Is Denied and His Trial Is Hastened

press release

Brussels — The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) expresses grave concern over the Cairo Appeals Court's denial of a recusal requested by prominent activist Abdel Fattah's and the hastening of his trial.

On Saturday 17 May, the Court ruled that Judge Mohammed El-Fikki could continue presiding over Alaa Abdel Fattah´s trial, despite the animosity between the two men going back to a complaint that Mr. Abdel Fattah had filed against the judge for alleged election fraud in 2005. Abdel Fattah's next hearing has been hastily scheduled to take place on 25 May 2014.

In spite of the court's decision, EMHRN calls upon Judge El-Fikki to recuse himself from Mr Abdel Fattah's case as his continued involvement worsens the prospects for a fair trial, and harms the impartiality of the court. We call upon the European Union to send trial observers to examine its conformity with international standards of fair trial.

Abdel Fattah, along with 24 others, was been charged under the new controversial "Protest Law", with the offences of "participating in a demonstration", "assaulting a police officer" and "calling for protests". The law restricts peaceful political demonstrations in violation of international standards, and effectively grants security agents discretion to ban any protest, and allows for collective responsibility and disproportionate punishment.

Since its adoption, this law has unleashed a wave of politically-motivated judicial procedures against dissenting voices. Another example is yesterday's outrageous raid against Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights in Alexandria while it was holding a press conference in solidarity with imprisoned labour activist Mahinour Al-Massry, who was sentenced to two years in prison on charges of protesting.

The second hearing of Abdel-Fattah took place on 6 April 2014 in a Special Chamber of the Criminal Court, located in a heavily fortified police compound in Torah, Cairo. These Special Chambers were set up to deal with terrorist offenses and are now used for offenses under the Protest Law. Being linked to the Ministry of Interior, these chambers call into question the separation of Executive and Judiciary powers.

EMHRN sent prominent international human rights lawyers to observe the second hearing of Mr. Abdel Fattah's trial. While conclusive findings have not been reached yet, the observers have issued an interim report, setting out preliminary findings and raising concerns over the fairness of the trial.

'Abdel Fattah's trial illustrates an ongoing state crackdown on dissidents,' says Michel Tubiana, EMHRN President. 'The final outcome of this trial is likely to be indicative of whether the judiciary in Egypt is independent of the Executive'.

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