Trial of Nubian activists continues despite motion for judge’s recusal

Despite an outstanding motion for his recusal, Judge Mahmoud Abdeen presided over a trial session on November 4 in a case in which 32 Nubian activists are being tried on protest-related charges.

On October 28, Munir Bashir, a lawyer who is also a defendant in the case, submitted a motion for the recusal of Abdeen in Case 26/2017 “for not complying with requests made by the defense team,” according to defense lawyer Amany Mamoun. A hearing to review the motion in front of the Aswan Court of Appeals was subsequently scheduled for November 25.

Nevertheless, on Sunday, Abdeen resumed presiding over the case being tried by the Aswan Emergency State Security Misdemeanor Court, issuing a decision to postpone the trial until December 2, lawyer Ahmed Rizq, who was formerly a member of the defense team, told Mada Masr.

Lawyer Taher Abul Nasr told Mada Masr that he has not witnessed a situation like this (in which a case goes ahead despite a request to recuse a judge) in the course of his legal career. As per the Criminal Procedure Code, “once the party requesting the recusal has submitted a motion to the court overseeing the case, proceedings must be suspended until the request is resolved,” he told Mada Masr. “It would be a violation of the law [to continue proceedings].”

In March, judges in the Aswan Emergency State Security Misdemeanor Court recused themselves from presiding over the case due to suspected issues of impartiality, Rizq told Mada Masr at the time.

The 32 defendants in the case face charges of inciting protests, obstructing public transport, protesting without a license and possession of flyers.

The case dates back to September 2017, when a group of Nubian activists staged a singing march, dubbed “The Day of Nubian Assembly,” to call for the implementation of Article 236 of the Constitution, which grants Nubians the right to return to their ancestral lands. Police arrested 24 protesters on September 3, in addition to another activist who was arrested later as he attempted to visit those in detention.

On November 4, 2017, one of the detainees, French-Egyptian activist Gamal Sorour, died in detention as a result of medical negligence, just hours after he joined other detainees in a hunger strike in protest of their detention in Aswan’s Al-Shalal Prison.

The remaining 24 defendants saw their remand detention renewed until November 13, 2017, when the case was referred to trial and eight defendants were added to the case in absentia. The 24 detained defendants were released on bail two days later.

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