The ICJ today called on the Egyptian authorities to immediately release all lawyers arrested for discharging their professional functions, and ensure they and other lawyers in the country are allowed to perform their work without threats or intimidation.
The Egyptian authorities have arrested more than 2400 people over the past two weeks following anti-government protests.
Many of the detainees’ lawyers have themselves been arrested, including Mahienour Al-Massry, Sahar Ali, Mohamed Salah Ajaj, Mohamed Al-Baqer (photo), Mohamed Helmy Hamdoun, Ahmed Sarhan, and Ahmed Abd El-Azim.
On 29 September, while representing prominent human rights defender Alaa Abdelafttah during questioning before the State Security Prosecution, lawyer Mohamed Al-Baqer was arrested and charged with, among other charges, “spreading false information aiming at disturbing the public and peaceful order” and “joining a terrorist organization.”
The ICJ has previously documented how lawyer Mahienour Al-Massry was arrested under similar circumstances, and called for her immediate release.
Mahienour was also charged with “spreading false information” and “joining a terrorist organization.”
“By arresting lawyers and prosecuting them on trumped-charges, the Egyptian military is dismantling the very last line of defense against its ruthless crackdown on human rights and fundamental freedoms, and silencing the very same voices that can still witness, challenge and report on its industrial-scale human rights abuses,” said Said Benarbia, ICJ MENA Director.
Under international standards reflecting core rule of law principles, lawyers must be able to discharge their professional functions without hindrance, harassment or improper interference.
They shall not suffer, or be threatened with prosecutions for any action taken in accordance with their professional duties.
The ICJ emphasized that these standards are there not only for the interests of the lawyers and those they represent or might in the future represent, but also to ensure that the rule of law remains operative for the society as a whole.
The Egyptian authorities must conform to these standards, refrain from its attacks against the legal profession, and immediately release all lawyers and other individuals arbitrarily detained.
Said Benarbia, Director of the ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, t: +41-22-979-3817; e: said.benarbia(a)icj.org
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