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Witnesses to activist’s killing put on trial

AI-Index: MDE 12/1404/2015

Seventeen people, including rights defender Azza Soliman, who testified about the killing of a peaceful activist in a march forcibly dispersed by Egyptian security forces have been put on trial: their first hearing will be on 9 May. They could face up to five years in jail.

Seventeen people have come forward as eyewitnesses to the fatal shooting of a 32-year-old woman, Shaimaa Al-Sabbagh, on 24 January 2015 during a peaceful march in central Cairo commemorating those who died during the «25 January Revolution». Six were arrested that day. All 17 have been charged with protesting without permission, an offence under Egypt’s repressive protest law. They could be jailed for up to five years.

Their trial at Cairo’s Abdeen Misdemeanour Court had been scheduled to begin on 4 April, but the judge rescheduled it to 9 May to allow lawyers time to prepare their defence. Lawyers have told Amnesty International that the Prosecution had refused to allow them to read the case file. The defendants are facing spurious charges after testifying against the security forces, in a clear attempt by the authorities to conceal their own crimes.

Azza Soliman, founder of the NGO Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance, came forward to give evidence on 24 January but found herself accused of protesting illegally and disturbing public order. She had not taken part in the commemorative march organized by the Socialist Popular Alliance Party (SPAP) on the eve of the «25 January Revolution». She had been sitting in a café with her family and friends, heard the marchers chanting and went outside to see. She saw 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.


Thirty-two-year-old Shaimaa Al-Sabbagh was shot on 24 January during a protest in central Cairo forcibly dispersed by Egyptian security forces. Video footage and photographs, captured by journalists and activists, have sparked widespread outrage in Egypt and beyond. Under Egypt’s draconian Protest Law, participating in a demonstration without prior authorization is a crime.
Shaimaa Al-Sabbagh had been taking part in a peaceful commemorative march to Tahrir Square by the Socialist Popular Alliance Party (SPAP), a leftist political party. The small group of around 30 protesters 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.
An eyewitness 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.
The head of Egypt’s Forensic Authority stated that Shaimaa Al-Sabbagh had died from fatal injuries caused by birdshot fired into her back and the back of her head at a distance of eight metres. While the authorities initially denied that the security forces were responsible for her death, the Public Prosecution has since charged a member of the security forces with «beating, injury or giving harmful substances that led to death» of Shaimaa al-Sabbagh.
Azza Suleiman went to the Office of the Public Prosecution to give her account of Shaimaa Al-Sabbagh’s death along with several other eyewitnesses. She told Amnesty International the prosecutor who questioned them ended his investigation by accusing them of protesting without authorization and attacking the security forces.

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, Mohamed Saleh, Khaled Mostafa

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