Activist Ahmed Douma, 229 others, sentenced to life in prison

Activist Ahmed Douma and 229 others were sentenced on Wednesday to life in prison in the “cabinet clashes” case and fined LE17 million collectively for damages to the scientific institute.

Another 39 defendants, who according to lawyer Sameh Samir are all minors, were handed 10-year sentences. 

Douma was facing, along with 268 other defendants, charges of illegal assembly, the acquisition of arms, assault on police and military forces, the burning of the scientific institute and the vandalism of other government buildings, including the cabinet and parliament buildings. 

Douma defended himself during Wednesday’s session, as there was only a court-appointed lawyer present in the courtroom. 

The Lawyers Syndicate had issued a decision to boycott the trial following what they claimed were legal violations against Douma’s defense team. 

One of the lawyers who boycotted the trial, Yasmine Hossam Eddin, told Mada Masr that they would appeal the verdict due to Douma’s lack of access to an appropriate independent defense. 

The defense team also withdrew because of “arbitrary treatment” by the judge, she said, adding, “the fine is larger than Ahmed Ezz’s fine,” and exceeds the amount calculated by the prosecution during its investigation. 

The events date back to December 2011, when clashes broke out at the cabinet headquarters between protesters and security forces, leaving 18 people dead. 

Judge Mohamed Nagy Shehata conducted Wednesday’s session in the deliberation room at the Police Academy in Tora.

A lawyer at the Egyptian Centre for Personal and Social Rights, Sameh Samir, who was on Douma’s defense team before the boycott, said on his Twitter account that the judge had issued orders to security beforehand not to allow any other lawyers into the session. 

Before their withdrawal, the defense team had repeatedly complained that Shehata would refuse basic demands, such as access to the papers relating to the case. He also wouldn’t allow the admission of defense witnesses. 

Judge Shehata had referred five members of Douma’s defense team to the prosecution on three different occasions for disrupting or disrespecting the court. 

Lawyers Malek Adly and Amr Imam reported independently that Douma clapped on hearing the verdict, which led the judge to say he would add three more years to his sentence. 

Douma was sentenced to three years in prison, upheld by an appeals court on January 27, along with activists Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel, for defying the Protest Law and allegedly assaulting police officers at Abdeen court. He was also criticized by the judge for disrespecting the court.

He had been on hunger strike in prison, causing his health condition to rapidly deteriorate.  

Despite the release of 312 prisoners recently to mark Police Day and the fourth anniversary of the January 25 uprising, thousands still remain behind bars. Many have been accused of charges relating to the controversial Protest Law, which the government has said it is committed to revising, although when is unclear. Many prisoners are still awaiting trial, or are involved in lengthy court and appeal processes without bail.

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