The verdict announcement in the case of lawyer Khaled Ali, who is facing “public indecency” charges, was adjourned until September 19 in a Wednesday court session, during which Ali’s defense team filed a complaint against plaintiff Samir Sabry accusing him of of violating public morality, according to lawyer Mohamed Fathy.
The Dokki Misdemeanor Appeals Court also heard the testimony of Sabry, a prolific litigator of morality-based cases, as well as the manager of the privately owned Sada al-Balad television channel, which released the video footage Sabry’s complaint was based on, during the session.
Ali, who was a candidate in the 2018 presidential election, was found guilty of “public indecency” on September 25, 2017, in relation to the hand gesture which he was accused of making while celebrating a victory in court in a case relating to the legal contest surrounding the cession of the Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia under a 2016 agreement.
Ali was convicted of committing a “dishonorable public act,” a charge that he deemed unconstitutional, as Egyptian law only stipulates against dishonorable acts regarding tax evasion. He filed an appeal that was accepted in November of that year on the grounds that the Dokki Misdemeanor Court, which issued the initial sentence, failed to hear the argument of the defense.
Fathy told Mada Masr that two lawyers from Ali’s defense team filed a complaint with the judge and prosecution during the Wednesday appeal session accusing Sabry of “public indecency,” after he imitated the same hand gesture Ali was accused of making in court several times, adding that they considered the repetition unnecessary. The legal complaint is similar to the one Samir filed against Ali in January 2017, but the issue will only be brought before a court if the prosecution decides to open an investigation.
During his testimony, Sabry asserted that he held no personal grudges against Ali, saying that he filed the case after watching the video of Ali aired on Sada al-Balad and considered what he saw to be a violation of public morality.
However, when asked why he thought Ali would make such a gesture, Sabry told the court he believed the move was motivated by Ali’s “malevolence toward and grudge against the state and its institutions,” according to Fathy. The lawyer added that the court seemed surprised by his response.
Fathy told Mada Masr that when brought before the court, Ahmed Sabry, the head of Sada al-Balad, said that he had not seen the video before it was published, as the responsibility of reviewing the website’s content falls to other employees. The channel executive added that it is Sada al-Balad policy to obscure any content depicting a crime or act of indecency, but he made no comment as to why this was not done in the case of the footage of Ali.
The defense requested that a specialized committee from the Higher Institute of Cinema be tasked with analyzing the video, as the expert who testified on behalf of the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU) was not a video specialist, according to Fathy.
In a June 6 court session, Ali similarly argued that the technical report submitted by the ERTU is invalid as it was drafted by a committee with insufficient specialization. He said that committee members could not discern whether the footage was original or whether it had been edited, frequently mixed up hardware and software, different editing programs and terminology, and were uncertain whether Ali’s case involved one or two videos.
Another member of the defense team, lawyer Malek Adly, previously told Mada Masr that the defense team’s footage show Ali at the time of the alleged incident from five different angles, none of which include the gesture the human rights lawyer is accused of making.
At the time Ali was first called in for questioning, on May 21, 2017, four months after Samir Sabry filed the complaint, he requested to see the complaint and evidence being used against him, but the prosecution denied his request, Ali’s lawyers told Mada Masr at the time. Ali was detained at the Dokki Police Station for one night before being released on LE1,000 bail without further questioning.