Egypt: Court extends detention of Aboul Fotouh, Ola Qaradawi

An Egyptian court has renewed the detention of the head of the Strong Egypt Party, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, for allegedly broadcasting and publishing false news and statements.

Aboul Fotouh, who has also been accused of participating in a terror group, was not present during the trial, according to his lawyer Ahmed Abu Al-Ela Madi.

The court rejected his lawyer’s attempts to postpone the court session even though the law stipulates defendants must appear in person at their renewal sessions.

The politician has now spent three years and nine months in pretrial detention following his arrest in February 2018 ahead of the presidential election which took place the following month.

One day before his arrest Aboul Fotouh was interviewed by Al Jazeera and criticized Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi for orchestrating a coup against the late President Mohamed Morsi.

Under Egyptian law, people can only be held on remand for a maximum of two years however to keep them in prison Egyptian authorities regularly bring new charges against them as they near the end of their legal detention period.

Aboul Fotouh is a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood who ran for election as an independent candidate in the 2012 presidential elections.

He has had three heart attacks in prison, the latest in July when prison guards ignored his cries for help.

The court also renewed the detention of Ola Qaradawi, daughter of the Islamic scholar Yusuf Qaradawi, for 45 days in pretrial detention, on the same charges, of “publishing false news and statements.”

Madi, who is also Ola’s lawyer, was not allowed to meet her during her trial.

Ola has now been on pretrial detention for four years and four months after she was arrested with her husband in July 2017.

Ola has been detained in solitary confinement since her arrest and over the summer went on hunger strike as a last resort to protest against the conditions she was being held in and her unfair arrest.

The UN has reported that the conditions of Ola’s detention amount to torture.

Amnesty calls for stopping trials by emergency courts

A few days ago, Amnesty International also released a statement demanding that Egypt stop the “ongoing trials of dozens of arbitrarily detained human rights defenders, activists, opposition politicians, and peaceful protesters by emergency courts.”

The welcome lifting of a years-long state of emergency in Egypt is marred by ongoing trials of dozens of arbitrarily detained human rights defenders, activists, opposition politicians and peaceful protesters by emergency courts where proceedings are inherently unfair, Amnesty International said two days ago.

The statement specifically highlights the plights of political prisoners Alaa Abdel Fattah, Mohamed El-Baqer, and Mohamed “Oxygen” Ibrahim, whose trial on “false information” charges was again postponed today. Amnesty noted that they are being prosecuted for statements that are “protected under Egypt’s constitution and international obligations to respect the right to freedom of expression.”

The statement said that blogger and activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, human rights lawyer and director of Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms Mohamed Baker and blogger and activist Mohamed Ibrahim (known as Mohammed “Oxygen”), would appear (on 1 November) before an Emergency State Security Court (ESSC) to face politically motivated charges of “spreading false information to undermine national security” over their social media posts.

All three have spent more than two years in abusive pretrial detention in appalling conditions, denied private access to lawyers and regular contact with their families.

They are all currently being held in Tora Maximum Security 2 prison in what Amnesty describes as “punitive and abusive conditions that violate the absolute prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment.”