After defense lawyers vehemently argued that the charges against 24 demonstrators arrested for protesting in front of the Ettehadiya Presidential Palace last June were groundless and, in fact, unconstitutional, the Heliopolis Misdemeanor Court adjourned the hearing until October 26, when it is expected to issue its final verdict.
The defendants, including high-profile activists Yara Sallam and Sanaa Seif, are accused of violating the contentious Protest Law passed last November for participating in a demonstration that demanded the release of political prisoners detained under that very law.
Thursday’s hearing began with the prosecution presenting video interviews with witnesses who claimed that the detained protesters had chanted against military rule and were in possession of Molotov cocktails. The video footage also showed broken shop doors in the area where the demonstration took place, although there was no footage of any of the defendants causing any damage.
Defense lawyer Khaled Ali requested to show a video that the prosecution had offered as evidence, and screen it again as a piece of evidence in support of the defendants. The video showed protesters peacefully marching when they were suddenly attacked by civilians and plainclothes police forces.
Fellow defense attorney Sameh Ashour, the head of the Lawyers Syndicate, further argued that the case had no legal grounds, as the Protest Law was void under the Constitution. He pointed out that the Supreme Constitutional Court is currently reviewing a lawsuit questioning the legality of the Protest Law.
Article 73 of the Constitution grants the right of peaceful assembly, Ashour argued, and this is the piece of legislation that should be applied to the defendants.
Defense lawyer Taher Abou al-Nasr then argued that the prosecution’s argument was baseless, as it failed to provide any incriminating evidence supporting its accusations. None of the videos presented by the prosecution showed any of the defendants committing acts of violence of righting, he pointed out.
Furthermore, none of the defendants were arrested in the act of committing the crimes of which they were accused, Nasr continued.
Ali explained that even the court’s procedures in this case were void, as the trial was being held in the Police Academy, which is not legal grounds for a civilian trial, and the defendants were held in glass cages during the trial sessions, in violation of the Criminal Procedures Law.
Ali added that he had filed a lawsuit against the Heliopolis chief investigative officer, accusing him of fabricating evidence against the defendants.