Dare we hope? The fate of Egyptian rights defenders.
A glimmer of hope seemed to emerge from Egypt this morning. According to various news reports, Alaa Abdel Fattah was released on bail following his conviction in absentia in June over charges of violating a 2013 law that seeks to curtail protests (Law 107 of 2013). A prominent blogger and political activist, Abdel Fattah was originally sentenced to 15 years. Following today’s retrial, he will be released from prison and have his case transferred to a new court in an apparent attempt to avoid potential “embarrasment”.
Sadly, my former classmate and friend, Yara Sallam (NDLS LL.M. Class of 2010) has not been so fortunate. As noted in a recent post here, Yara was detained by the Egyptian authorities on 21 June 2014 following her alleged participation in a peaceful march against the same 2013 protest law. This draconian law has been widely criticized by human rights organizations for breaching fundamental human rights standards. It allows security forces to use force in dispersing peaceful protests, practically bans protests unless pre-authorized by the Ministry of Interior and criminalizes activities that essentially constitute peaceful expression and assembly. Yara’s fellow inmates include Sanaa Seif, the sister of Alaa Abdel Fattah. It is no coincidence that such prominent human rights defenders were targeted and remain in detention.
This past Saturday, friends of Yara from across the world connected with eachother via internet. They waited with bated breath on news from her long-awaited trial, only to have the court hearing her case adjourn the trial to 11 October 2014. And once again, without any apparent justification, the court renewed and extended her detention.
We can only hope that international concern regarding the evident denial of justice in this case – and the potential “embarrasment” that it will cause – will prompt the Egyptian authorities and judiciary to rethink their approach in advance of next month’s trial. It would be better still if individual legislators, law enforcement officials and judges would commit to serving justice and respecting human rights – regardless of pressure to do otherwise. Perhaps we need to work toward the first scenario while praying for the second.
For further updates on Yara’s case, see http://freeyara-freesanaa.net.