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Startseite Urgent Actions 2015 04 Witnesses to activist’s killing put on trial Azza Soliman verdict due on 26 September
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Azza Soliman verdict due on 26 September

AI-Index: MDE 12/2033/2015

The verdict is due on 26 September in the trial of human rights defender Azza Soliman and 16 others, who witnessed the killing of a poet in Cairo. They are at risk of a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to 50,000 Egyptian pounds (US$6,450).

An appeal court in Cairo ruled on 4 July that the verdict is due on 26 September in the appeal trial of human rights defender Azza Soliman and 16 others, all of whom were eyewitnesses to the killing of poet Shaimaa al-Sabbagh in Cairo. They are at risk of up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to 50,000 Egyptians pounds (US$6,450).

According to the Centre for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance, which Azza Soliman founded, the presiding judge said he did not want to hear the lawyers’ pleadings, in other words, their overall defence in the case, and asked them instead to focus on specific legal arguments. Some of the lawyers explained that not all the defendants had the same legal standing; instead, they have different defences which require different legal arguments. Azza Soliman is purely an eyewitness, while others were marchers who became eyewitnesses to the killing, and yet another is a doctor who came to the aid of the mortally wounded poet. Shaimaa al-Sabbagh was the mother of a five-year-old boy.

The 17 defendants were acquitted on 23 May of «protesting illegally» and «disturbing public order» under Egypt’s repressive Protest Law. Three days later, Egypt’s Public Prosecutor appealed. Policeman Yassin Hatem Salahedeen was sentenced to 15 years in jail on 11 June for “beating that led to death” of Shaimaa al-Sabbagh.

Additional Information

Left-wing activist Shaimaa Al-Sabbagh, a poet, was shot on 24 January during a peaceful commemorative march in central Cairo that was broken up by the Egyptian security forces. Video footage and photographs of her killing, taken by journalists and activists, sparked widespread outrage in Egypt and beyond.
Shaimaa Al-Sabbagh had been taking part in a peaceful commemorative march to Tahrir Square by leftist political party the Socialist Popular Alliance Party (SPAP). The small group of around 30 marchers had been carrying a banner with the party’s name, as well as flowers to pay tribute to the hundreds who died during the 2011 uprising. They marched on the sidewalk to avoid blocking traffic. Under Egypt’s draconian Protest Law, participating in a gathering or demonstration of 10 or more people without prior authorization by the Interior Ministry is a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. However, those who took part in the march have maintained that they were not demonstrating, but marching to commemorate those who had died.
An eyewitness has told Amnesty International that the security forces guarding the entrance to Tahrir Square had stopped the march in nearby Talaat Harb Street before opening fire on the protesters with shotguns and tear gas.
According to the head of Egypt’s Forensic Authority, Shaimaa Al-Sabbagh died from injuries caused by shotgun pellets fired into her back and the back of her head from eight metres away. The authorities initially denied that the security forces were responsible for her death. The Public Prosecution then charged a member of the security forces with “beating, injury or giving harmful substances that led to death” of Shaimaa Al-Sabbagh. The officer is now serving a 15-year prison sentence.
Azza Soliman, founder of the NGO Centre for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance, said in her testimony that she had not been part of the march, but had been sitting in a café with her family and friends. She heard the marchers chanting and went outside to see. She saw the security forces breaking up the march with tear gas and shotguns. She also saw a body in the street, which she learned was that of Shaimaa Al-Sabbagh. Two others now on trial were not involved in the march. One is a doctor, who offered first aid to Shaimaa Al-Sabbagh after she was shot; the second is a bystander who carried Shaimaa Al-Sabbagh to a nearby café for safety. Both were arrested at the scene. The remaining 14 defendants were part of the peaceful commemorative march. Some were arrested at the scene, and others went to testify after being summoned by the Public Prosecutor. One man was accused of killing Shaimaa Al-Sabbagh after offering his eyewitness testimony. When no evidence was found against him, he was instead charged with protesting illegally and disturbing public order.
None of the defendants are in jail, but they all risk imprisonment and a fine at the September court session.

Names: Azza Soliman, Nagwa Abbas, Maher Shaker, Mostafa Abdelaal, Sayed Abu El Ela, Elhami El Merghany, Adel El Meleegy, Mohamed Ahmed Mahmoud, Zohdy El Shamy, Ahmed Fathy Nasr, Talaat Fahmy, Taha Tantawi, Abdel Hameed Mostafa Nada, Mohamed Saleh Fathy, Hossam Nasr, Mohmed Saleh, Khaled Mostafa.

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