In a ruling that complicates Egypt’s long-standing attempt to manage and confiscate Muslim Brotherhood funds, the Court of Cassation overturned on Tuesday a criminal court decision to list 296 people on Egypt’s “terrorist list,” according to lawyer Ahmed Abul Ela.
The Cairo Criminal Court decision to put 296 people on the “terrorist list” in July 2018 came shortly after the passage of legislation that ushered in the third round of the state’s campaign to seize Brotherhood assets.
By introducing a new judicial committee, the April 2018 law attempted to circumvent previous setbacks the state had encountered due to the non-judicial committee formed in 2013 to manage Muslim Brotherhood assets. The State Council and appeals courts threw out previous rulings to place individuals on the “terrorist list,” challenging the legitimacy of this committee to make these types of decisions.
Tuesday’s Court of Cassation decision, however, is an indication that this conflict is yet to be resolved.
The 296 people in the July 2018 decision included Ola al-Qaradawi, the daughter of the Islamic theologian Yusuf al-Qaradawi; Hossam Eddin Ali Khalaf, Ola’s husband; and prominent members of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau, including Mahmoud Ezzat and Ibrahim Mounir. Qaradawi and Khalaf have denied affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood. They have been held in remand detention since June 2017.
The defendants were initially placed on the “terrorist list” in a 2017 decision that applied to 1,538 people. This decision was overturned in July 2018 by the Court of Cassation, which ordered that the request issued by the Public Prosecution be reviewed by another circuit court.
However, the 2017 decision was only one of two designation decisions. At the end of April 2018, a separate criminal court issued a decision for 1,530 people on the “terrorist list,” after Parliament passed the new legislation earlier in the same month.
According to Al-Shorouk newspaper, the Court of Cassation ordered another criminal court circuit to review the designation decision for 219 people party to the Tuesday appeal decision, as well as those who did not challenge the designation.
Under the terms of the April 2018 law, the management of Brotherhood assets is divided into two stages. The new judicial committee has the power to add individuals to the “terrorist list.” Requests to freeze the assets of these individuals must then be submitted by this committee to a judge pro tempore. If the request is approved by the judge, the management of the frozen funds and assets becomes the responsibility of the committee.
This twofold process is also at play in the appeal process, where those placed on the “terrorist list” can challenge individual parts of the designation and management process.
If a defendant chooses to challenge the designation process, according to the law, they must submit an appeal to the Court of Cassation. Contesting the pro tempore decision, on the other hand, means an appearance before a court of urgent matters. If the court of urgent matters rules against the appeal, however, the freezing decision is not only upheld as “final,” but the committee formed by the April law can begin confiscating a defendant’s assets, if the appeal decision contains language allowing the committee to do so.
The law, thereby, sets a precedent, allowing the government to confiscate assets and deposit them into the state budget, rather than merely seizing and managing them. Moreover, assets can be confiscated and deposited before their owners are convicted of charges related to terrorism.
According to Abul Ela, several of those placed on the “terrorist list” have challenged the 2018 law’s constitutionality before the Court of Administrative Justice.
The lawyer also told Mada Masr that those involved in Tuesday’s decision still have an outstanding appeal against the judge pro tempore’s decision to freeze their assets. Tuesday’s decision should automatically nullify this decision, however.