After just three trial sessions in which defense lawyers were not granted access to case files or a chance to present arguments, an emergency court decided on Monday to issue its verdict next month on false news charges against imprisoned activist Alaa Abd El Fattah, lawyer Mohamed al-Baqer and blogger Mohamed “Oxygen” Ibrahim.
According to family members and lawyers of the defendants who attended the session in New Cairo on Monday, neither the defense nor prosecution were given time to state their cases clearly, and the session failed to adhere to due legal procedure and violated the right to a fair trial.
All three defendants were arrested in September 2019 during a widespread crackdown by security forces that saw thousands held in remand detention in response to limited protests that broke out nationwide against government corruption.
Though none of the defendants participated in the protests, they were held on charges of publishing false news, using social media to do so, and of joining a terrorist group. It was not until October this year that the State Security Prosecution referred Abd El Fattah, Ibrahim and Baqer to trial at the Emergency State Security Misdemeanors Court on the false news charges.
Though emergency law was allowed to lapse for the first time in years in October, all three defendants are nevertheless eligible for trial at an emergency court since the investigation into charges against them was opened during the legal state of emergency. As such, they will not be able to appeal any verdict they receive through the normal court system, with direct appeal to the president or delegate constituting the only avenue to overturn sentences. The third hearing in the case lasted over five hours on Monday, during which defense lawyers repeated their requests to be allowed access to the case files, but, as in the first two sessions, the judge did not grant them permission, nor were they allowed to present their arguments. Prosecutors did not present their arguments either.
Baqer and Abd El Fattah spoke to the judge during the hearing, according to Baqer’s wife Naema Hisham, with Baqer stressing his legal right to review the case files and charges against him.