26 October, 2020
Egypt: Days before a verdict in the trial of engineer Mamdouh Hamza, government’s vindictive use of terrorism charges against peaceful critics denounced by human rights organizations
The undersigned human rights organizations call for charges to be dismissed in the trial of engineer Mamdouh Hamza, whose verdict is scheduled for October 26th. Guilty only of exercising his right to peaceful expression of opinion through social media, Hamza’s trial is simply a furtherance of counterterrorism’s deliberate misuse by the Egyptian government to intimidate, retaliate against, and imprison anyone expressing critical or independent viewpoints, regardless of their political, ideological, or professional affiliations.
Motivated by the pursuit of retribution rather than the pursuit of justice, it comes as no surprise that the Public Prosecution’s charges against Hamza are flimsy and fabricated, based not on any evidence but rather on the flawed anti-terrorism and emergency laws, together with notoriously biased state security investigations and media smear campaigns. The undersigned reaffirm their demand for the Public Prosecution to commit to its role as an impartial and independent investigator that bases its indictments on genuine evidence rather than specious information and vitriol collected through state security agencies and their aligned media outlets.
Mamdouh Hamza is facing terrorism charges from the Public Prosecution, under Case no. 4148 of 2020, for a tweet on his personal Twitter account about the “al-Warraq Island protests” in July 2017. Security-run media outlets launched a malicious campaign against Hamza, accusing him – without evidence – of inciting against the police and the army, encouraging the people of al-Warraq Island to strike, and insulting the Egyptian state by describing it as an occupation state. Curiously and unprofessionally, the Public Prosecution used the very same accusations lobbed in the media smear campaign as charges for its own prosecution of Hamza, without either independently verifying these accusations or seeking objective evidence from sources other than libelous media outlets. Adding to the farce, journalists participating in the smear campaign were included as witnesses to the incident by the Public Prosecution.
The trial is marred by further violations of due process. Hamza was referred to trial on January 28th, 2020 before the State Security Emergency Court, which is an exceptional court that does not meet fair trial standards . The indictment itself is based on the overly-broad definition of terrorism in the fundamentally flawed Terrorism Law no. 94 of 2015, which expands the definition of the crime of terrorism to such an extent that nearly any act can be considered as terrorism. The application of Emergency Law no. 162 of 158 also imposes additional unjustified restrictions on individual freedoms.
We the undersigned fear that if Mamdouh Hamza is convicted of terrorism-related charges for expressing his opinion, this ruling will further legitimate the state’s wrongful use of counterterrorism legislation to prosecute peaceful dissent and the exercise of fundamental rights. Accordingly, the undersigned demand for the Egyptian government to end its reprisals and unlawful prosecution of peaceful opponents and critics, including engineer Mamdouh Hamza, and to guarantee the right to freedom of expression, as required by international treaties and Egypt’s constitution.
The undersigned further call for the immediate release of all prisoners of conscience deprived of their freedom for peacefully expressing their opinions online, in other media outlets, and elsewhere, and to rescind previously issued unjust sentences in similar cases.
- Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
- The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
- Nadeem Center for torture victims
- The Egyptian Front for Human Rights
- The freedom Initiative
- Committee for Justice
- Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression