Activist Ahmed Douma handed 15-year prison sentence, LE6 million fine in Cabinet clashes retrial

Activist Ahmed Douma was sentenced to 15 years in prison and handed a LE6 million fine on Wednesday by a Cairo criminal court for charges that stem from 2011, when protesters clashed with military forces dispersing a demonstration in front of the Cabinet building.

The Wednesday verdict, which was handed down by Judge Shireen Fahmy, can be appealed before the Court of Cassation.

Douma, a prominent activist and one of the founders of the Kefaya and April 6 Youth movements, has been held in remand detention since December 2013. He has faced at least six incidents of harassment or assault during trial proceedings, his brother previously told Mada Masr, and his family have continuously reported medical negligence as his health has deteriorated in detention.  

Wednesday’s sentence comes as part of the protracted court proceedings, originally involving 269 defendants who were referred to trial in May 2012 on charges of illegal assembly, weapons possession, assaulting police and military forces, burning the Institut d’Egypte and vandalizing other government property, including the Cabinet and Parliament buildings.

The protesters had been staging a weeks-long sit-in calling for newly appointed Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri to resign or be removed because he was appointed by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, who headed the transitional government after former President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in the January 2011 revolution. At least 18 protesters were killed when security forces moved to forcibly disperse the sit-in.

The initial trial was rife with controversy, with lawyers withdrawing in November 2014 over lack of due process during trial proceedings. Lawyers accused the court of misleading witnesses, refusing to include key evidence in the case and denying defense lawyers access to documents.  

However, in February 2015, Douma and 229 others were handed life sentences, and 39 minors in the case were sentenced to 10 years in prison. One hundred and forty-five defendants, who were sentenced to life in absentia in the February ruling and were arrested after the verdict was handed down, were granted a retrial after they appealed.

The verdict for this retrial was handed down on July 25, 2017, in which the court upheld the life sentences of 43 defendants and sentenced nine minors to 10 years in prison and one defendant to five years in prison. Ninety-two of the defendants were acquitted.

In October 2017, the Court of Cassation overturned the life sentence handed to Douma in the case, ordering the retrial that began on January 3, 2018 and concluded on Wednesday.

The prominent activist has been handed sentences in three other cases.

The first sentenced Douma, as well as activists Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel, to three years in prison and LE50,000 fine each on protest-related charges on December 22, 2013. The Court of Cassation upheld the verdict on January 27, 2015.

On December 9, 2014, Douma was sentenced to a further three years in prison and a LE10,000 fine in the Cabinet clashes case — in addition to the life sentence he had received — for contempt of court, after he clapped when judge Nagy Shehata announced the initial February 2015 ruling. The additional sentence was overturned by the Court of Cassation on May 25, 2017, and reduced to the LE10,000 fine on February 24, 2018.

In January 2016, Douma, Adel and Maher were sentenced in absentia to 6 months imprisonment for assaulting a police officer as they were being transported to court, which was reduced to one month imprisonment in May of that year.

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