CAIRO: An appeal of the two-year prison sentence against activist Mahienour El-Massry was accepted Sunday, and she was given a reduced prison term.
However, the appeal was refused to other defendants in the same case.
After she was sentenced to six months in prison and a fine of 50,000 EGP ($6,992.45) for violating the infamous 2013 Protest Law that prohibits protests without prior license, Massry said that the verdict was “politicized and void” as other defendants in the same case had their appeal rejected, according to her defense attorney Mohamed Hafez.
Massry and other defendants were arrested during a peaceful protest in solidarity with Khaled Said, whose brutal death in 2010 in state custody helped spark the January 25 Revolution in 2011. Massry and company faced charges of unlicensed protest, gathering, weapons possession, assaulting security personnel and damaging a police car.
Sunday’s verdict was unexpected by activists, who condemned Massry’s imprisonment and demanded the abolishment of the Protest Law.
“This sentence is unjust and is only part of a series of targeting human rights activists through issuing repressive laws like the Protest Law,” said a Sunday statement by the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI).
Hafez, who is also a member of the ANHRI, told The Cairo Post, “It is painful and unfair to sentence someone innocent to prison.”
He added, “It is also clear that the state is retaliating against activists and its opponents.”
According to the court reasoning, El-Massry’s verdict was reduced due to the court’s compassion and sympathy for her age and future career as a lawyer.
“There are no legal justifications or standards upon which the appeals of the other defendants were rejected,” Hafez said. He added that it might be the wide pressure mounted lately in support of Massry that was behind her reduced verdict. However, Hafez said the verdict was still unsatisfactory and will be challenged.
Since she has been consecutively imprisoned in different cases under the last three Egyptian presidents, Massry was awarded the annual Ludovic Trarieux Human Rights Prize for 2014.
“Clear violation to the freedom of opinion and expression”
After the Protest Law was approved and enforced in November 2013, frequent demonstrations have been launched against the law, which activists say has deprived them of their right to expression.
An ANHRI statement demanded the immediate release of Massry as well as other activists detained over the same charges, and the annulment of the Protest Law saying, “This is a clear violation to the freedom of opinion and expression and the right to peaceful assembly which is guaranteed in all international agreements and covenants.”
“Citizens shall have the right to organize public meetings, marches, demonstrations and all forms of peaceful protests, without carrying arms of any kind by serving a notification as regulated by law,” reads article 73 of the Constitution.
The right to peaceful assembly and association was also guaranteed in article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Massry will also stand trial Monday with 12 other activists and lawyers in a different case over charges of storming El-Raml police station in March 2013.
She is just one of many protesters and activists sentenced under the Protest Law.
Alaa Abdel Fatah, a prominent political activist, was sentenced in absentia on June 11 to 15 years in prison and a fine of 100,000 EGP for organizing illegal protests.
Last but not least, three April 6 Youth Movement members were sentenced to three years in jail, fined 50,000 EGP, and ordered placed under surveillance for three years for organizing illegal protests and assaulting police officers in November 2013 in front of the Abdeen Misdemeanors Court.
Additional Reporting by Hanaa Abu El-Ezz