CAIRO: A man who spent 8 months in jail without charges is considering demanding compensation from security forces. Assistant Professor at the University of Alexandria’s Faculty of Fine Arts Sherif Farag was released Aug. 3 after spending 247 days behind bars at El-Hadra prison in Alexandria, Youm7 reported.
“The next steps for possible further legal action through filing a lawsuit demanding the state compensate Sherif Farag will be discussed with Farag himself in a few days,” Farag’s lawyer and member of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights Ramy Eid told The Cairo Post Wednesday.
Farag was released after the court dropped all charges; his eight-month imprisonment began after he was arrested from his home on Nov. 24, 2013.
“We just want you for half an hour and then you can go back home,” this is what Farag heard from the security forces chief who stormed his house last November. Farag did not know then that this “half hour” would become eight months of imprisonment pending investigation, al-Shorouq reported.
Farag was booked on 14 charges, including participating in thug activities, practicing violence, illegal assembly and attempting to rob a bank on Aug. 16.
“Farag was present before prosecution twice. They told him that he was accused of joining a banned group, trying to topple the regime and disrupting public peace. They then charged him with violence, rioting and homicide in incidents on August 14, 16 while his engagement was on Aug. 15,” Farag’s lawyer told The Cairo Post Wednesday.
The verdict issued to acquit him of all charges aroused controversy about using remand by security bodies on innocent people, especially with the absence of legislations that would protect citizens from imprisonment due to remand.
Farag’s legal situation
A decision by former President Adly Mansour on Sep. 25, 2013 allowed indefinite detention for suspects whose charges require punishments such as death sentences or life sentences.
The law does not recognize Farag’s right to receive material compensation for his time in prison nor can the investigators who did an incomplete job be held accountable, lawyer and head of Al-Haqaneya Center for Lawyers and Law Mohamed Abdel Aziz told Dostor Asly late Dec., such compensation was declared in the 2014 constitution yet the law has not changed until this moment.
The January 2014 constitution guarantees absolute personal freedom except in the case of a judicial order.
The constitution adds that “The law organizes the roles of remand, its periods, reasons and the cases that deserve to be compensated by the state after remand or for serving a penalty after a final acquittal sentence is issued.”
Due to the inadequacy of legislation and the fact that a constitution article stipulated compensation in such cases, but there was no mention of it in any law, Farag cannot be compensated for the period he spent in prison after his acquittal sentence.
Farag was not caught in flagrante delicto, he was taken from his home based on an arrest warrant that lists 14 accusations of which none were proved nor upheld.
Apart from material evidence that was missing according to the latest decision to acquit him, the moral evidence had several question marks around them, Farag’s fiancée Noha Mansour told El-Badil. Also, Farag has a good reputation and has no criminal record, he was a very good student and was known for his good manners in his neighborhood, Fine Arts student Abdel Rahman Mohamed told El-Badil.
Executive Director of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights Tareq Zaghloul told Youm7 that remand after June 30 turned into something like the emergency law. “The remand time is cut from the total punishment time a suspect spends after a final verdict, while an innocent person does not get anything in compensation” he added.
Farag’s political life
Farag was politically active after the January 25 Revolution, and cofounded the “Save Alexandria Initiative” which aims at protecting Alexandria’s architectural heritage. The initiative quickly turned into a platform for political activities, including demonstrations against the protest law in Dec. 2013.
“Farag has been in custody for over six months; while he should be acquitted as the charges are not valid,” his lawyer told The Cairo Post in May. He further said that Farag was arrested from his home three months after the August incidents, adding that there was “no evidence” of his participation in the protests.
Eid further noted that Farag’s engagement party was on August 15, 2013.
“How could he be in the streets killing people a day before his engagement and then go and continue murdering people the day after. It doesn’t make sense,” he said.
“What questions do you want to ask my son? I already told the police officer who came to our house to detain my son that he neither participates in protests nor is he affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Why would you take him?” Farag’s mother told El-Badil in a Jan. 9 video.
“He (the police officer) told me he wanted Sherif for only half an hour. I replied: anyone you take doesn’t come back to their families,” she continued.
“I have not seen my son since he was detained” she said while her eyes were full of tears.
“The toughest moment for me was when my family was not with me while discussing my master’s degree thesis, because of a clerk’s fault in not signing a paper. Also, I bought a tuxedo to wear for discussing my thesis, but it ended up with me wearing the prison’s uniform and slippers,” Farag told El-Badil following his acquittal on Aug. 3.
“The process of getting an approval to discuss the thesis was torturous. But eventually, the professors’ committee managed to come and they all ended up crying,” Farag continued.
“I do not know the reason for my detention. I have no idea who has inflicted this injustice on me. It could be someone from the faculty, someone I know or someone I do not know. I do not want to hold a grudge for someone after having been released. My intention was to go out (of prison) with psychological peace towards all people” Farag told El-Badil following his acquittal.
Farag wrote a message from prison in April that read:
“Liar is this who tells you that prisons create men
Liar is this who says prisons strengthens will
Since when did prisons create men or strengthen will?
Let prayers and dreams for those who dwell here
do something for I love freedom as much as you do.”
Additional reporting by Nourhan Magdi and Aya Nabil.