Law is supposed to be the rule for any disagreements within institutions of justice, and any divergence requires their quick intervention to achieve the will of law. When a case has a political or human rights aspects, however, both the defendants and lawyers suffer.

Torture and murder

Law is supposed to be the rule for any disagreements within institutions of justice, and any divergence requires their quick intervention to achieve the will of law. When a case has a political or human rights aspects, however, both the defendants and lawyers suffer.

Torture and murder

In February 2015, lawyer Karim Hamdi was tortured to death by National Security officers in the Matariya Police Station, east of Cairo. Hamdi was detained there during investigations into his alleged crimes committed in support of the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamdi’s case mobilized lawyers against the Attorney General who issued an order preventing publishing any details.

In March 2015, a march was staged towards the Attorney General’s office to uncover the circumstances of the case where protestors wore black. In December 2015, two officers were sentenced for five years in a high security prison. The verdict states that Hamdi’s heart and breath stopped due to injuries to the chest, abdomen and neck as a result of fractures in thoracic ribs, lacerations in the lungs and bruising of the heart, liver and scrotum, accompanied by bleeding in the chest cavity, abdomen and testicles as well as around the kidneys.

Over 600,000 lawyers suffer while practicing their profession, due to the ‘I hold you in contempt’ charge that any judge may issue at any time.

To jail

Another great risk that a lawyer faces when trying to defend human rights, such as the right demonstrate, is that a signed agreement by the government may become invalid, or the lawyer’s right to enter the state security courts can be denied— which happened to lawyer Malek Adly, who was placed in solitary confinement in a 2×3 square meter room. He has been in jail for more than 68 days, which exceeds the legal period for this disciplinary punishment of 30 days. His case will be examined on August 18.

Adly is accused of broadcasting false information aimed at disturbing public security, attempting to revoke the Constitution and the republican system of the state, joining a group that intends to disable the provisions of the Constitution and laws, preventing state institutions and public authorities from exercising their work, and other charges. Adly alongside others had filed a lawsuit with the Council of State of the invalidity of the waiver of the two islands of Tiran and Sanafir in the Red Sea.

Recently, several trials have been held in police locations in order to provide protection. This however violates the condition of non-litigation in a detention site. The last of such cases was the detention and trial of those accused of demonstrating on Earth Friday on April 25 in the Central Giza Prison – founded on December 30, 2014 – which was formerly a prison for central security.

Short judiciary history

When the legal profession started in Egypt, it did not require scientific expertise, especially since the Sharia justice system did need this profession in its modern form. In the late 1800s, when mixed and civil courts were established, there was a need for a representative of the litigant, but he was an agent rather than a lawyer. Through their struggle, the practitioners of the profession played key roles in protecting and regulating it. Three unions were established to develop the profession in the defense of the rights of litigants in front of three types of courts.

The Bar of Mixed Court Lawyers remained operative until it was revoked in 1949. The same applies to the Bar of Sharia Judiciary Lawyers, which was shut down in 1956. Only the Bar of Civil Court Lawyers – founded in 1912 – is still active.

 No lawyers in court

In the Police Officer Institute of the Ministry of the Interior (MoI), many trials are held, including the trial of some students of Al-Azhar University before the Cairo Criminal Court. On June 6, the Prosecution Office objected to the decision of releasing the accused. The trial was moved to another MoI department, the Police Academy. The lawyers were prevented from attending the session and even from gaining access to the academy itself. The court however approved the initial verdict of releasing the defendants.

During one of the sessions of the case of the 30 defendants accused of participating in the march to the Presidential Palace, to demand the abolition of the Anti-Demonstration Law and the release of those detained on June 21, 2014, an officer physically assaulted and harassed lawyer Yasmin Hossameddin.

Hossameddin filed a complaint against the officer and, after an investigation, an arrest warrant was issued against her. Thus, Hossameddin came under prosecution until the MoI settled the case.

When the defendants in one of the cases of the detainees of the third anniversary of the revolution were acquitted, they were not released. Four days later, Hossameddin headed to the MoI and the Prosecution Office to demand the implementation of the verdict. She then went to Abu Zaabal prison and staged a sit-in in front of the gate until the verdict was executed. “They responded in only three hours,” she says.

Fighting for civil rights

“When investigators know the defendant has a human rights lawyer, they change the way they deal with him,” says Mahmoud Othman, a researcher and a lawyer at the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression.

He supports this claim by citing the example of Ezzeddine Khaled, a member of Street Kids group. Khaled was arrested on May 7, in his house and imprisoned for four days pending further investigations. He was accused of inciting protests and insulting state institutions. He was released thanks to a solicitor rather than a human rights lawyer. “We have seen that the course of the case changed when it appeared that the case had a political aspect, especially when the other members were arrested and their works were shown,” says Othamn.

Founded early in 2016, Street Kids posts satirical video clips on Facebook, filmed in Cairo’s streets on their member’s mobile phones. Its short videos mock the main themes of state-funded artistic works during the 1980s and 1990s.

In their clips, the performers sing a song using different lyrics and a serious performance that compounds cynicism. These works have become remarkable popular by Internet users in Egypt.

Creators Muhammad Dassouqi, Muhammad Adel, Muhammad Gabr and Muhammad Yahya have been in detention since May 10. The last detention-renewing decision – the fifth renewal so far – was issued on July 2 for 15 days. They are accused of inciting people to demonstrate, disseminating false news, publishing video clips with verbally abusive words that offend state institutions, and indirectly inciting terrorist crimes.

“If the regime released you, it would be encouraging people to do what you do,” says Othman, quoting an investigator talking to the defendants. Othman encourages Street Kids, underscoring that no one goes down in history unless they are jailed.

Most recently, complaints and cases have been lodged against Street Kids in Alexandria Governorate, accusing them of blasphemy. “Do you condemn religions?” asked the judge of appeal Gabr during a session of the five detention renewal sessions.

Othman says the indictment does not include the blasphemy charge. This question however is one aspect of the suffering of any defendant accused of a political or human rights activity. Furthermore, the accusations leveled against Street Kids are based on their own videos, which, says Othman, violates freedom of expressions and terrorizes all those who practice it.