State Security prosecutors renewed the detention of journalist Hesham Gaafar on Sunday for another 15 days, making this the seventh time his detention has been renewed since he was arrested in October 2015.
Gaafar is being investigated on criminal charges, including membership of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, and receiving bribes from foreign entities.
The renewal of Gaafar’s detention will be reviewed in a session on January 31. His lawyer, Mohamed al-Baqir, said the charges pertaining to the receipt of bribes is based on Article 78A of the Penal Code, which was amended via a presidential decree by interim President Adly Mansour in 2014, making the maximum penalty for receiving money or other forms of assistance from foreign states, entities associated with foreign states, or any other party, in exchange for harming Egypt’s national interests, either life imprisonment or the death penalty.
Baqir told Mada Masr the specific violation for which Gaafar is being charged and prosecuted has not been made clear, asserting, “this is because State Security prosecution withholds memorandums of investigation from defendants,” adding, “It’s very unfortunate that prosecutors can invoke legislation to deprive defense lawyers of the right to access information … and use the law to deprive defendants of their basic guarantees of a fair trial.”
According to Article 125 of the Penal Code, defense lawyers have the right to review all case files and documents, with the exception of instances in which prosecutors or judges deem that this might jeopardize the investigation.
Baqir said the prosecution is entitled to renew the detention of a defendant for 15 days up to 10 times. They must then, either release the defendant, place them under conditional release, or refer them to criminal court. The court may then decide to renew the defendant’s detention for 45 days at a time. The total duration of pre-trial detention, as is permissible by judicial authorities, must not exceed two years. Following this, a defendant must be released or stand trial. This period can be extended if the charges against them carry a life or death sentence.
Security forces arrested Hesham Gaafar on October 21, 2015, when raiding the offices of the Mada Foundation for Media Development in Cairo’s 6th October City. Gaafar, who presides over the foundation’s board of trustees, was escorted to his residence, which security forces also searched. He was then taken to an undisclosed location for two days, before Baqir discovered his whereabouts by chance and he was subsequently transferred to the maximum-security Al-Aqrab in the Tora Prison complex.
Baqir says Gaafar was held in solitary confinement at Al-Aqrab for 50 days, during which he was reportedly denied access to his medication and prescription glasses.