Mahmoud Mohamed — the 20-year-old held in pretrial detention for more than two years for wearing an anti-torture T-shirt — has been referred to the State Security Prosecution, lawyer Moukhtar Mounir told Mada Masr on Wednesday.
The young man was arrested on January 25, 2014 — the third anniversary of the 2011 revolution — for wearing a T-shirt with an anti-torture slogan and a scarf commemorating the uprising. He has been detained without charge in Cairo’s Tora Prison since then, despite having surpassed the maximum period for pretrial detention as stipulated by Egyptian law.
Wednesday’s decision was a move to buy time, Mounir claimed.
“They’re procrastinating,” he argued. “After two years, the public prosecution discovered [now] that Mahmoud’s case falls outside its jurisdiction?”
The lawyer, who works with the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), explained that the new prosecutor will have to look into the case first before deciding whether it will be accepted. The State Security Prosecution is entitled to look into crimes that threaten national security domestically and abroad, Mounir noted, and “the public prosecution believes that Mahmoud is a threat to national security.”
If the State Security Prosecution accepts the case, Mohamed could face trial before the Criminal Court’s terrorism division.
Mohamed’s brother Tarek Mohamed was in a state of shock after hearing the news.
“I cannot find any decent words to say. It is not understandable nor justifiable that the public prosecution takes two years to discover that it is not entitled to investigate Mahmoud’s case,” he said.
“We will continue [exerting] international pressure to release him,” Tarek declared. “We will continue to expose his jailers.”
Amnesty International has championed the campaign to release Mohamed, issuing a call for action in October pressuring Egyptian authorities to let him walk free immediately.
“Everyone should be able to live without fear for the views they express or for participating peacefully in a protest. But Mahmoud [Mohamed] has spent 20 months in jail without charge or trial for doing just that, with his only offence being to have demanded an end to torture and celebrating the January 25 revolution,” Amnesty said in its statement.
As part of the campaign to free Mohamed, on December 25, 2015 a group of rights activists and politicians demanded his release in a video that was widely shared on social media.
On Tuesday, talk show host Youssef al-Housseini expressed solidarity with Mohamed on his daily show “Sada al-Muhtaramon” (Respectable Gentleman), which airs on the privately owned ONtv satellite channel, by wearing the same anti-torture T-shirt Mohamed wore the day of his arrest.
Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Mahmoud Mohamed is 19 years old. It has been edited to reflect the fact that he is now 20 years old.