Egypt: 4 ECRF leaders still in prison after their hearing postponed

Four leaders of the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) are still behind bars as their latest hearing was again postponed, while courts extended the pretrial detentions of numerous political prisoners.

After spending more than three years in pretrial detention, Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) Executive Director Ezzat Ghoneim and board members Hoda Abdel Moneim, Mohamed Abu-Horaira, and Aisha al-Shatir were all supposed to face trial yesterday (15 December), but the court instead postponed the hearing until December 26.

The four were all arrested in 2018 and spent more than the legal maximum of two years in pretrial detention before the Supreme State Security Prosecution referred them to trial before an emergency court in September of this year.

Their indictment order accuses them of using ECRF’s social media to “spread alleged notions” of police abuse, intentional medical neglect of prisoners, and unfair trials. In a statement of solidarity released prior to the trial, 10 Egyptian human rights organizations stated that those charges are “at the heart of legitimate defense of human rights … and fall under the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression guaranteed under the Egyptian constitution as well as international law.”

UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Mary Lawlor has previously called for their immediate release, noting that they were “detained without warrants, held incommunicado, and then accused of multiple spurious offenses.”

This week, Amnesty International reiterated its call for authorities to release Huda Abdel Moneim, who the organization noted is facing trial “simply for her human rights work.” Her health has been steadily deteriorating while jailed, and she is in dire need of a cardiac surgery that prison authorities continue to deny her.

A former member of both parliament and the recently resuscitated National Human Rights Council, Huda Abdel Moneim has been subjected to the very violations she is arbitrarily detained for denouncing.

On December 13, a court renewed the pretrial detention of Strong Egypt Party President Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh, who, according to his lawyer, appeared to be in poor condition at the hearing.

Aboul-Fotouh has suffered multiple heart attacks during his nearly four years behind bars. At his renewal hearing, he protested his continued ill-treatment by authorities and called for all prisoners of conscience to be released.