Today the ICJ condemned the conviction of prominent Egyptian political activist Ahmed Douma and called for his immediate removal from solitary confinement and release from prison.
Ahmed Douma, political activist and founding member of the now banned 6 April pro-democracy movement established in 2008, was convicted by the South Cairo Criminal Court on Wednesday 9 January 2019.
The conviction, resulting in a sentence of 15 years in a maximum security prison and a six million Egyptian pounds (US$335,000) fine, followed a re-trial on charges under the Penal Code and Law No. 10 of 1914 on Illegal Assembly including using force and violence against military and police officers, disrupting traffic, participating in an illegal assembly for such purposes, burning the Egyptian Scientific Institute, vandalizing public property, and possessing Molotov Cocktails and rocks to vandalize public property.
The charges relate to his involvement in a three-week sit-in protest outside the Cairo Cabinet Offices in November and December 2011 against the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ decision to appoint Kamal Al Ganzouri as Prime Minister, and calling for a civilian government during the post-revolution transition period. The protest erupted in clashes between military forces and protestors on 16 December 2011, which lead to the death of 18 protestors by live ammunition, injury of more than 1900 others and property damage. Douma and 268 others were charged with all offences without distinction.
Ahmed Douma has been held in solitary confinement since late 2013 in connection with his conviction in another case.
Before handing down the sentence, Judge Mohamed Shereen Fahmy stated the country was “plagued by the intellectually defeated and the socially […] lost in the maze of life, seeking a position through which they can establish themselves as national symbols, liars, deceivers, and accomplices, […] who one would expect to be the homeland’s protectors, but in reality, they are its worst foes.”
“The harsh sentence is a clear message to all political activists that any political activity or dissent will not be tolerated under Egypt’s military dictatorship,” said Said Benarbia, Director of ICJ’s MENA Programme. “Judge Fahmy’s statement demonstrates he was never independent and impartial, but was implementing the political will of the al-Sisi led government. The Egyptian regime’s politicization of the judiciary means those with opposing views are unlikely to have a fair trial.”
On 22 December 2013, a Cairo Misdemeanor Court convicted Ahmed Douma in another case, along with two other political activists and founding members of the 6 April movement, Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel, for “illegally organizing a protest” under Law No. 107 of 2013 on the Right to Public Meetings, Processions and Peaceful Demonstrations. They were sentenced to three years’ imprisonment and fined 50,000 Egyptian pounds (US$7,239) each.
Since that conviction, Douma has been detained in solitary confinement, with minimal time outside his cell each day. Prolonged solitary confinement is prohibited under international law.
“The Egyptian Authorities are subjecting a political activist to severe ill-treatment in reprisal for his participation and his role in the pro-democracy uprisings of January 2011 and as a warning to others to take heed of what will happen should you dare to express your views. Ahmed Douma’s solitary confinement for more than five years is a breach of Egypt’s obligations under international law,” said Said Benarbia.
Said Benarbia, Director of the ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, t: +41-22-979-3817; e: said.benarbia(a)icj.org
Egypt-Release Ahmed Douma-News-Web Story-2019-ENG Full press release (English, PDF)
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