Several hundred activists converged upon the Journalists Syndicate in downtown Cairo on Wednesday to protest the outlawing of the oppositional April 6 Youth Movement, while also calling for the release of two of the group’s jailed leaders, Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel.
This liberal movement was outlawed on Monday by the Court of Urgent Affairs. Its judges ruled that April 6 had received foreign funding with the aim of sowing discord within Egypt, and of tarnishing the country’s image abroad.
Also on Wednesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a statement urging Egyptian authorities to lift the ban imposed on this youth movement. The statement said that Monday’s court ruling was a “further attempt to silence dissent.”
HRW added that the verdict is “a clear violation of citizens’ rights to free association, peaceful assembly, and free expression.”
The April 6 Youth Movement is the second oppositional group to be outlawed since December 25, when the interim government classified the Muslim Brotherhood as an outlawed terrorist organization.
Standing on the stairs outside the Journalists Syndicate, hundreds of members of the April 6 Youth Movement chanted against Monday’s court verdict and against the recently issued Protest Law, which restricts freedom of assembly and grants police forces sweeping powers in dealing with rallies, protests and public gatherings.
“Down with your laws … protesting is our right,” chanted throngs of angry youth, along with, “Judges have sold their principles and justice … but you will not keep us from our cause.”
April 6 Spokesperson Mahmoud Gamal told Mada Masr: “We plan on appealing against the court’s verdict. Yet we also know that our appeal may be dismissed or the verdict upheld. We have lost faith in many judges.
Two leaders of the April 6 Youth Movement Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel — along with a number of other activists — were arrested in late November for violating the provisions of the newly issued Protest Law by conducting an unauthorized street protest.
On December 22, the Cairo Court of Misdemeanours sentenced Maher and Adel, together with liberal activist Ahmed Douma, to three years imprisonment and fines of LE50,000. On April 7, the Cairo Appeals Court rejected the activists’ appeal and upheld their previous sentences.
Attending the protest at the Journalists Syndicate, Mohamed Yassin identified himself as a sympathizer of the April 6 Movement. Yassin commented: “We no longer expect justice from the judiciary. They only issue politicized rulings to punish opponents of the regime.”
According to Gamal, “the ruling authorities are accusing us of ridiculous things, such as being agents of both Israel and Iran.”
Holding up black April 6 flags and clenched fists, protesters chanted: “You who ask about foreign funding … Sisi is a traitor and foreign agent.”
The unified chant: “Down with military rule” rang loud and clear well over a block away from the Journalists Syndicate.
Other chants, which included curse words directed against police forces, were hushed by April 6 members, who apparently did not want the throngs of journalists, camera crews and passers by hearing such words.
Other protesters held up banners calling for the release of all political activists. The names of tens of jailed secular activists were held up on placards.
Others held posters of Sayed Abdallah of the April 6 Movement who was shot dead — reportedly by security forces — during the third anniversary of the January 25 Uprising.
The April 6 Youth Movement was established in 2008 in solidarity with a labor strike at the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in the Nile Delta City of Mahalla. While this strike was thwarted by police forces, a localized uprising took place in the city on April 6 and 7.
The April 6 Movement was a leading force in a number of street protests under the regime of Hosni Mubarak and was a key player in the January 25 Uprising in 2011, which culminated in Mubarak’s resignation on February 11.
This youth movement aligned itself with the Muslim Brotherhood’s presidential campaign for Mohamed Morsi in 2012. It continued to support the Islamist president, but later opposed him just ahead of the June 30 Uprising in 2013, in which it participated and called for his ouster.
However, following Morsi’s removal by the Armed Forces on July 3, 2013, this youth movement began to criticize the interim authorities and the presidential ambitions of military chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who ousted the elected Islamist president.