Court sends Shura Council defendants back to prison until next trial date

The Cairo Criminal Court has ordered the detention of 20 defendants in the Shura Council case, including activist Alaa Abd El Fattah, until the next trial date of November 11. 

Monday’s court session was the first since the judge presiding over the case stepped down in September at which time he released Abd El Fattah and two other defendants from prison on LE5,000 bail.

The defendants face charges of organizing an unauthorized protest outside the Shura Council in Cairo last November, attacking a police officer, stealing a walkie-talkie, hooliganism, aggression against police officers, blocking the road, crowding a public place and the destruction of public property.

Last June, the 25 defendants were sentenced to 15 years jail in absentia and a LE100,000 fine. However, Abd El Fattah, Mohamed Noubi and Wael Metwally were arrested outside the Police Academy at Tora prison on the morning of the trial.

Twenty-one defendants demanded a retrial, two were sentenced in absentia and the remaining two did not file for a retrial. 

With the exception of Metwally, all of the defendants were present during Monday’s court session along with their lawyers and family members.

Defense lawyer Taher Abul Nasr requested that surveillance footage of the protests at the Shura Council, Parliament and Interior Ministry buildings be included in the evidence, as well local television coverage from November 26, 2013.

Defense lawyer Khaled Ali also requested the testimony of members of the 50-member committee tasked with drafting the constitution who were present that day, including Sameh Ashour, Diaa Rashwan, Khaled Youssef and Amr Moussa, among others.

Lawyer Ragia Omran demanded that she be notified on the trial’s developments by the court itself, not the media.

Following the court’s ruling, Abd El Fattah was taken outside the courtroom alone before guards returned to collect the remaining defendants.

Abd El Fattah’s sister, Sanaa, was handed down a three-year prison sentence on Sunday along with another 22 activists on similar charges stemming from their protest last summer at the Ettehadiya Presidential Palace.

In response to Monday’s ruling, Abd El Fattah’s mother Laila Soueif and sister Mona Seif declared that they would escalate their hunger strike.

Both women started a hunger strike on September 4 following Abd El Fattah and Sanaa’s imprisonment, but they said in an official statement Monday that they would abstain from water as well until their relatives were released.

Seif said she was concerned about Abd El Fattah’s whereabouts, as she said that he had not yet been transferred to Tora prison with the rest of the defendants.

“Alaa was separated [from rest of the defendants], he was not with them. Where is he kidnapped? Where are they hiding him? State Security, for example?” she wondered.

Later, Seif tweeted that he may be in a building belonging to the Cairo Security Directorate.

This article has been amended to clarify that Mona Seif and Laila Soueif had already been on hunger strike since September 4. 

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