A year at the courts

This year was a year of court battles.

The rule by law of the security apparatus, prosecution and courts stood against various groups opposing the regime. And 2014 saw several verdicts favoring figures of the old Hosni Mubarak regime, including the former president himself. The year’s verdicts often cost the judiciary credibility in the eyes of local and international human rights organizations and research bodies. Here’s a selection of the most controversial verdicts of the year. 

  • In February, the Cairo Criminal Court sentenced 26 defendants to death on charges of forming a terrorist group and manufacturing explosives with the intent to bomb state buildings and boats coming through the Suez Canal.
  • The same month the Port Said Criminal Juvenile Court sentenced two defendants accused of raping and killing five-year-old Zeina Arafah to 20 and 15 years in jail. The girl had resisted the brutal attack, prompting her aggressors to throw her off the 11th floor. The defendants are under the legal age, making them ineligible for the death penalty.
  • In March, the Alexandria Criminal Court sentenced two policemen to 10 years in prison for the murder of Khaled Saeed. His death had become a symbol of police brutality when photographs of his disfigured face after he was tortured by police quickly went viral on social media. His death is widely believed to have been one of the sparks of the revolution of January 25, 2011.
  • Also in March, in only two sessions, the Minya Criminal Court sentenced 529 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death for violence in Minya following the dispersal of the Rabea al-Adaweya and Nahda sit-ins last year. The court later upheld 37 of the 529 death sentences, sentencing the remaining 492 defendants to life in prison.
  • The following month, the same court sentenced 683 supporters and members of the Brotherhood to death, including the group’s Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, for violence that occurred at the Edwa Police Station in Minya, Al-Ahram reported.
  • In April the Alexandria Primary Court also ruled against members of the Brotherhood running in the presidential and parliamentary elections.
  • The Cairo Court for Urgent Matters also banned the activities of the April 6 Youth Movement that month, for its involvement in acts tarnishing Egypt’s image as well as espionage.
  • And prominent Salafi preacher and former presidential candidate Hazem Salah Abu Ismail was sentenced to seven years imprisonment by Cairo Criminal Court for fraud in the case of his mother’s nationality.
  • In that same month, the Abdeen Misdemeanors Court upheld the three-year sentences handed down to activists Ahmed Maher, Mohamed Adel and Ahmed Douma, accused of violating the contentious Protest Law. This was a rejection of an appeal against the sentences and LE50,000 fine the activists received last December in a speedy trial.
  • In June, the Cairo Criminal Court sentenced activist Alaa Abd El Fattah and 24 others to 15 years jail in absentia, a LE100,000 fine and five years’ surveillance on charges of organizing an unauthorized protest outside the Shura Council in Cairo, attacking a police officer, stealing a walkie-talkie, hooliganism, aggression against police officers, blocking the road, crowding a public place and destruction of public property. Later in September, the judge presiding over the appeal case stepped down. Abd El Fattah remains in detention as the trial continues.
  • That same month, three Al Jazeera English journalists received verdicts of seven to 10 years in jail on charges of aiding a terrorist organization by spreading false news. Award-winning Australian journalist Peter Greste, Al Jazeera English’s Kenya-based correspondent who previously worked for the BBC, and Canadian-Egyptian national Mohamed Fahmy, Al Jazeera English’s Cairo bureau chief who previously worked for CNN, received seven years in a maximum-security prison. Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian producer for Al Jazeera, received seven years plus another three years on accusations of possessing a bullet.
  • Two weeks earlier the Khanka Misdemeanors Court had annulled a 10-year sentence given to a senior police officer for 37 deaths of prisoners near Abu Zaabal prison last year.
  • And the Minya Criminal Court sentenced over 180 defendants to death for violence against police and civilians, in the aftermath of the ouster of former president and Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi. Badie was also among the defendants.
  • Early in July, Badie was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Banha Criminal Court for inciting violence in Qalyub.
  • In mid-July, the Cairo Appeals Court for Urgent Matters lifted a ban on former National Democratic Party (NDP) leaders from running in elections. The ban had been imposed by the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters in May, stipulating that former NDP members cannot run in presidential, parliamentary or municipal elections.
  • In August, the Cairo Criminal Court handed a life sentence to two defendants and 20 years in prison to a third for a mob sexual assault that took place in Tahrir Square during the inauguration celebrations for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in early June.
  • In the same month, the State Council Administrative Court accepted a request by the Political Parties Affairs Committee to dissolve the Freedom and Justice Party, the Brotherhood’s political arm.
  • In September, an Alexandria court suspended the sentence handed down to leftist activist Mahienour al-Massry and ordered her release. In January, Massry was sentenced to two years in jail for violating the protest law. She was taken into custody in May. In July, the court had reduced her two-year sentence to six months and a LE50,000 fine.
  • Eleven days earlier, a criminal court in Giza sentenced the manager of the orphanage to three years in prison and a fine of LE1,000 for endangering the lives of seven children whom he was filmed beating at the orphanage. This was seen as lenient. 
  • In November, a criminal court in North Cairo dismissed the case against former President Hosni Mubarak, effectively acquitting him of all charges, which included ordering the killing of protesters during the January 2011 revolution, and corruption charges related to a gas deal with Israel. The judge cited a procedural error made by the prosecutors. Mubarak’s sons Gamal and Alaa, as well as his interior minister Habib al-Adly and six of his aides were also effectively acquitted.
  • In December, an appeals court amended the sentences of 23 protesters arrested while marching to the Ettehadiya Presidential Palace last June to two years in prison and two years probation, from the original three-year sentence handed down to them last October. Among the protesters were leftist activist Sanaa Seif, Alaa Abd El Fattah’s sister, as well as Yara Sallam, a legal researcher and human rights activist at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
  • The same month, the Giza Criminal Court sentenced 188 defendants to death on charges in connection with violence in the Giza town of Kerdasa last year.

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