CAIRO: The Cairo Criminal Court resumed Sunday the retrial of political activist Alaa Abd El Fattah and 24 others in the 2013 Shura Council Protests Case in which the defendants were previously sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison.
The court also decided to continue the hearing on Wednesday. The next court hearing will mark one year from the incidents the defendants were arrested for.
According to activists reporting from inside the court, the court refused the prosecution’s request to display personal videos previously objected to by defense lawyers, and eliminated footage related to Abd El Fattah’s family from the evidence in the case.
Activist Nazly Hussein reported on her Twitter account that the next trial session will be for the hearing of the prosecution’s witnesses, and that the one after will be for the defense’s witnesses.
Additionally, a Youm7 video showed Abd El Fattah telling the judge that the mobile phone counted as evidence in the case is his wife’s, and was taken from their house during his arrest without an official search warrant, which the judge noted in the case.
The Shura Council case and the parallel 2011 Cabinet Protests Case involving political activist Ahmed Doma and 268 other defendants have been stirring controversy beyond just political debate on the controversial 2013 Protest Law. The legal procedures of the case by the prosecution and the judges are often contested.
International human rights observatories condemned the “judicial harassment” concerning the Shura Council case in a joint statement released by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) on Nov. 19. One of the examples stated by FIDH was the fact that in the last hearing on Nov. 11, several friends of the defendants were denied entry to the court despite defendants’ families and some NGO representatives being allowed to attend, and an earlier decision by the same judge granting everyone entry.
Meanwhile, the same court witnessed a rare act by the defense team in the 2011 Cabinet Protests case, when the defense decided to withdraw from the case and the Lawyers’ Syndicate issued a statement calling on all syndicate members to abstain from taking the case due to the head judge’s interaction with lawyers.
“The underestimation of lawyers is not acceptable from any judicial or executive official regardless of his rank; lawyers’ value and dignity is as worthy as that of the head of the court,” the statement read in reference to disputes that erupted with the head judge during Saturday’s session and past incidents.