Rasha Azab, Khaled al-Balshy released pending investigations

Prosecution has released prominent activist Rasha Azab and Journalists Syndicate board member Khaled al-Balshy on Tuesday pending further investigations, after accusing them of calling for unlicensed protests and assaulting security forces, among other charges, in relation to a protest in 2014.

Balshy and Azab willingly went to the prosecution’s office after finding out that a summons had been issued.

The investigation relates to a protest that was held in June 2014 on the stairs of the Journalists Syndicate, while a press conference was taking place inside regarding the sentencing of 23 protesters to jail over protest-related charges in the case known as “Shura Council” case. Most detainees in this case were pardoned last month.

According to lawyer Gamal Eid, Balshy was initially summoned as a witness, but when he testified to having organized the press conference held in the syndicate on that day, he was formally charged and became a defendant in the case.

Both Azab and Balshy face charges of calling for a protest without license, blocking roads, verbal assault on police and military officers, verbal assault on other protesters, as well as harming the interests of citizens. There are four other defendants in the case whose names have not been revealed.

The prosecution has summoned the two several times in relation to the case since June 2014, but this is the first time that orders pertaining to these defendants have been acted upon.

“The case is now ongoing, and the speed with which it will proceed depends on the political will,” Eid speculates. As a case with two high-profile activists, Eid says that the charges might be used against the defendants now as a threat for further political activity, or be kept aside as a card that can be dealt when the state deems it necessary.

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