Alaa Abdel Fattah trial postponed to Sept. 15, EU team attends session
Alaa Abdel Fattah - YOUM7/Kareem Abdel Kareem

CAIRO: The Cairo Criminal Court Wednesday adjourned the trial of activists Alaa Abdel Fattah, Mohamed Nouby, Wael Metwaly and 22 other defendants to Sept. 15, in the globally scrutinized case known as the “Shura Council” protests of November 2013.

“The three main suspects will remain in detention while other defendants are to be released until their next trial session,” the Freedom for the Brave Movement supporting detainees reported Wednesday.

The case has drawn the attention of international human rights defenders, and the presence of an EU delegation. EU Human Rights Advisor Karen Andersen and another member attended the trial, which is a usual protocol, Rasha Serry, press officer of the EU Delegation to Egypt, told The Cairo Post Wednesday.

“In a few hours the trial session will be held. I am really sorry to say I have no hope whatsoever, at least not for this session,” posted Abdel Fattah’s sister Mona Seif on her Facebook account before the trial began.

The defendants include seven people being tried in absentia who participated at the hunger strike sit-in at the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR).

Young members of the Popular Current Party, previously headed by Hamdeen Sabbahi, announced Monday evening the beginning of a hunger strike this morning “in continuous efforts of revolutionary and political forces to ban the [2013] Protest Law and release detainees,” the party said in a Facebook statement.

A growing movement of hunger strikes reached a new level this past week, after leading political and human rights activists announced their hunger strikes in support of all prisoners of conscience. They include Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Doma, Mahienour El-Massry, Mohamed Sultan, Abdullah Elshamy before his release, the defendants in the Shura Council case and others.

In addition to Abdel Fattah’s family, members from the Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence also began a hunger strike Friday.

The Shura Council case is one of many, under the broad umbrella of the State’s crackdown on activists, reinforced by the Protest Law passed by former interim President Adly Mansour on Nov. 24, 2013.

The legislation behind the law has been considered an oppression of freedom of expression, a “serious setback that poses a grave threat to freedom of assembly and gives security forces a free rein to use excessive force, including lethal force, against demonstrators,” Amnesty International has written.

The law was enacted as a security measure following a series of mass violent protests across the country, mainly by Muslim Brotherhood supporters after the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi. But in practice, the law has been used as a means of suppressing opposition voices, including journalists, to which a “terrorist charge” is usually also applied.

People can be arrested and charged according to police preferences instead of legal grounds. The police could then build up a case to fit the suspects, still without necessarily having evidence, even beyond claims of violating the Protest Law.

An example of this is the case of young activist Ayat Hamada, detained from December 2014 to February 2014 and accused of sabotage and terrorism. Hamada has said she was only confronting police forces brutally arresting a female student protester. But, she was charged with possession of weapons, sabotage and assaulting police.

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