Daily Archives: 16/05/2022

Egypt: Fair trial violations and threat of long term detention for Mohammad El-Baqer (joint communication)

16/05/22

The following is based on a communication written by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and other UN experts to the Government of Egypt on 17 March 2022. The communication remained confidential for 60 days before being made public. The Government did not respond within this period. Replies, if received, will be published on the UN Special Procedures’ database

This is a shorter version of the original communication.

[…]

Mr. Mohamed El-Baqer is a lawyer and human rights defender who has actively used social and other media outlets to publish and write about human rights issues, including on cases of enforced disappearances and torture allegedly involving the National Security Agency. Following his arrest in September 2019, he was detained arbitrarily for an extended period. He was also placed on Egypt’s domestic terrorist entities and terrorist list (hereinafter “terrorism watch list”) under Case No. 1781/2019.

We previously raised our human rights concerns with the Egyptian Government about the arrest and detention of Mr. El-Baqer and the inclusion of his name on Egypt’s terrorism watch list in communications EGY 11/2019EGY 10/2020 and EGY 8/2021.. We regret that no reply has been received to any of these communications.

The case of Mr. El-Baqer was also included in the 2020 report of the Secretary-general (A/HRC/45/36, Annex I paras. 45-46) on cooperation with the UN on allegations that he had been targeted in relation to his engagement with the Universal Periodic Review of Egypt.

ALLEGATIONS

On 16 October 2021, Mr. El-Baqer was referred to the Emergency State Security Court (ESSC) by the Supreme State Security Prosecution under a new case without the knowledge of his lawyers who were prevented from presenting their defence, and who were not allowed to access his case file.

Mr. El-Baqer was accused under case No. 1228/2021 of “spreading false news undermining national security” and “using social media to commit publishing offenses.” These charges were among four accusations brought against him under an earlier case in 2019, case No. 1356/2019, which included accusations of “belonging to a terrorist group”, and “funding a terrorist group”, both of which remain in place and for which Mr. El-Baqer is held in pre-trial detention.

Although the state of emergency in Egypt was lifted on 26 October 2021, the ESSC remains in place for cases referred to it beforehand. Emergency Court verdicts are not subject to appeal and can only be commuted or overturned by the President of the republic.

On 11 November 2021, the ESSC rescheduled Mr. El-Baqer’s trial to 20 December 2021. His lawyers were not allowed to meet him or to have access to his case file, in violation of due process.

On 23 November 2021, the Court of Cassa tion rejected Mr. El-Baqer’s appeal to remove his name from the terrorism watch list issued a year earlier under Case No. 1781/2019, despite a lack of evidence or verdict justifying its decision.

On 20 December 2021, the ESSC Misdemeanor Court in New Cairo sentenced Mr. El-Baqer to four years in prison in case 1228/2021. In addition to his four-year sentence, Mr. El-Baqer continues to be held in pre- trial detention under Case No. 1356/2019 and, if tried and convicted by a Supreme State Security Court, he could face long-term imprisonment.

CONCERNS

Without prejudging the accuracy of the information received, we express serious concern regarding the allegations that Mr. El-Baqer was denied the right to due process and fair trial throughout his arbitrary detention and trial, his continued arbitrary detention, and the continued inclusion of his name on the terrorism watch list without apparent evidence, in what appears to be a misuse of this listing procedure against human rights defenders. We express further concerns regarding the reported lack of adequate sanitary conditions and adequate medical care to Mr. El-Baqer, as well as the alleged lack of regular access to and contact with his family and legal representatives.

[…]

https://www.cfjustice.org/free-them-all-a-fair-and-transparent-process-to-release-political-prisoners-in-egypt/

https://www.uianet.org/fr/actions/global-legal-community-stands-solidarity-egyptian-lawyer-mohamed-el-baqer

https://www.amnesty.fr/personnes/mohamed-el-baqer (FRANCAIS)

Georgia: Director of pro-opposition TV channel jailed for 3.5 years in Georgia

16/05/22

Tbilisi City Court has sentenced Nika Gvaramia, the director of opposition-leaning TV channel Mtavari and one of the lawyers of Mikheil Saakashvili, to three years and six months in prison for abusing his position.

Gvaramia was on trial for crimes allegedly committed while the director of another TV company, Rustavi 2

He was charged in 2020 with abuse of power and embezzling property at Rustavi 2, commercial bribery, and forging documents. He was found not guilty on the last three counts.

The prosecution’s case rested on a Porsche Macan S worth €76,700 ($79,900) being given to Rustavi 2 in early 2019 in exchange for advertisements on the channel. Prosecutors argued the car was procured for the use of Gvarami’s family.

‘Stay with Mtavari and achieve freedom with us! Everything will be fine’, Gvaramia wrote on his Facebook page shortly before being led away from the courtroom. 

While not a member of the formerly ruling United National Movement (UNM) Party, Gvaramia held a number of senior positions during their rule and has remained one of the party’s most outspoken supporters.  He also legally represented former president Mikheil Saakashvili in court.

[…]

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/5/16/georgia-jails-critical-pro-opposition-journalist-nika-gvaramia

https://www.rferl.org/a/georgia-gvaramia-prison-sentence-corruption/31852799.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nika_Gvaramia

https://www.lefigaro.fr/flash-actu/georgie-le-patron-d-une-tv-d-opposition-condamne-a-trois-ans-et-demi-de-prison-20220516 (FRANCAIS)

UN Working Group Concludes Turkmenistan Violated Human Rights Laws In Arresting Lawyer

16/05/22

A UN working group has concluded that Turkmenistan violated international human rights laws when it detained a lawyer who was organizing a pro-democracy rally.

Police in the tightly controlled Central Asian nation arrested Pygamberdy Allaberdyev, a lawyer at a state oil company, in September 2020 for “hooliganism” after a man attacked him near a grocery store in the western city of Balkanabat.

Officers for Turkmenistan’s National Security Ministry immediately took over the case and charged Allaberdyev with having ties with the activists abroad.

He was sentenced later that month to six years in prison after a closed-door, two-hour trial during which he had no legal representation.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention last week determined that Allaberdyev was arrested for exercising his freedom of expression and association, according to the human rights group Freedom Now, which is helping Allaberdyev.

“We welcome the Working Group’s recognition that Pygamberdy Allaberdyev is wrongfully detained,” Freedom Now Legal Officer Adam Lhedmat said in a May 13 statemnt.

“Allaberdyev’s imprisonment is indicative of Turkmenistan’s intolerance of dissent and its strategy of using fabricated charges to silence its citizens. We call on the Turkmen government to comply with the United Nations’ decision and immediately and unconditionally release Allaberdyev.”

[…]

https://www.rferl.org/a/allaberdyev-turkmenistan-arrest-arbitrary-detention/31852330.html

https://tmhelsinki.org/en/article/2f85c67e-115d-4a56-91d6-617160cdd1da

https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/10/22/turkmenistan-drop-charges-free-wrongfully-imprisoned-lawyer