Freedom for the Black Gown: New campaign calls for release of detained rights lawyers

Egyptian activists have launched a campaign dubbed “Freedom for the Black Gown” to call for the release of human rights lawyers detained in politically-motivated charges.

The campaign kicked off on Wednesday with a video showing several human rights lawyers calling for the freedom of their colleagues while holding Lawyers Syndicate membership cards.

The video ends with the lawyers’ written statement condemning increasing violations against human rights lawyers in Egypt.

Rights lawyer Mohamed Sadeq was allegedly kidnapped by police at Giza train station on August 30, the international day against forced disappearance. According to the campaign’s video, Sadeq represents several people detained in the notorious Aqrab Prison in difficult conditions. He has won many lawsuits to grant Aqrab prisoners the right to family visits.

“This is not the first incident, lawyers Malek Adly and Mahienour al-Massry also faced similar mistreatment,” the statement said. “There are still around 400 lawyers behind bars, but when the violations escalate to forced disappearance, the issue requires a firm stance.”

On September 9 Al-Shehab Center for Human Rights also released a statementcondemning Sadeq’s kidnapping. “He was also representing a number of families whose relatives forcibly disappeared, and had been invited for a conference in Geneva to address this problem,” the statement said.

Adly and Massry were were released last month. Massry served a 15-month sentence for allegedly storming Alexandria’s Raml Police Station, and Adly spent 100 days in solitary confinement pending investigations into accusations of inciting protests against Egypt’s handover of two Red Sea islands, Tiran and Sanafir, to Saudi Arabia. Adly suffered inhumane prison conditions and was denied access to medical care.

Prominent lawyer Haitham Mohamadien is also detained pending investigations into the Tiran and Sanafir protests.

Lawyer Mohamed Abdel Fattah is facing a military trial on charges of attacking the Embassy of Niger, an incident that left one soldier dead and others injuredin July last year. Abdel Fattah was arrested last year and his friends say he had been working on the cases of people detained for politically motivated charges. In one case, he managed to refute the claims of the prosecution’s witnesses who happened to be national security officers.

“One of the officers targeted him as he was kidnapped from the court and was beaten and tortured, and later fabricated charges of bombing the Niger Embassy against him. He was investigated by state security prosecution and later referred to a military trial,” one of his friends, lawyer Islam Salama, said in January.

Salama himself went missing in March, but he was later released.

A petition launched in August by several European lawyers to demand the release of Malek Adly referred to the violations rights lawyers face in Egypt because of their political activism.

“We believe Mr Adly’s detention conditions, the obstruction of his legal representatives and the charges he is facing are indicative of a wider pattern of repression directed at Egyptian lawyers and campaigners at the forefront of efforts by civil society groups to support Egyptian citizens facing harassment, prosecution and abuse by state security agencies and the judiciary for the peaceful exercise of their constitutional and internationally-guaranteed rights to freedom of expression and association,” the petition asserted.

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