Rights lawyer among first Egypt protesters sentenced to prison

Award-winning lawyer El-Massry among first Egyptians sentenced to prison over ‘Palacegate’ protests
3 min read
24 September, 2019
Nine Egyptians have been sentenced to 15 days imprisonment over their role in Friday’s anti-Sisi protests, which rights groups call ‘flimsy and unsubstantiated’ charges of terrorism and spreading fake news.
Lawyer and activist El-Massry has been detained several times by the Sisi regime [Getty]
Egypt's prosecution sentenced nine people to 15 days in prison on Monday over their participation in protests that spread across the capital on Friday following a corruption scandal surrounding President Abdelfattah al-Sisi's regime dubbed "Palacegate".

Among the sentenced is award-winning human rights lawyer Mahinour El-Massry, who was arrested on Sunday after attending an investigation of several of those arrested during the demonstrations.

A video published on social media showed El-Massry chanting to dozens of onlookers from behind bars: "Revolution, revolution until victory. Revolution in all of Egypt's streets."

Hundreds of Egyptians took to the streets in Cairo and several other cities across the country on Friday and Saturday to call for Sisi's departure.

The prosecution charged the accused with taking part in a terrorist organisation, spreading fake news, misusing social media and demonstrating without notice, according to human rights NGO the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms.

A second NGO, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, identified 370 people have been detained over the protests so far, but added that the true figure was far higher.

"Most of the arrests were characterised by a clear violation of the law and constitution, starting with denying detainees the right to call their families and keeping minors in adult facilities," said the network.

"The 17 prisons built by General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's regime will not accommodate millions of angry Egyptians. Even if the new presidential palaces are transformed into prisons, they will still not be able to accommodate these huge numbers. Violent repression could lead to an explosion with irreversible consequences," the network added, referring to the corruption scandal that centred around the alleged squandering of billions on lavish presidential palaces and residences for the armed forces.

The network counted at least 30 human rights lawyers who have been detained for over 24 hours at the state security prosecution headquarters.

Most of the protesters detainees are from Suez, Cairo, Alexandria and Mansoura, where protests broke out on Friday and Saturday evenings, with many of them are minors and students.

The network called the accusations of terrorism and spreading fake news "flimsy and unsubstantiated", saying the detained are prisoners of conscience. 

Massry, who has been a prominent and active human rights defender since 2013, has been tried and jailed twice in the past for taking part in demonstrations. 

In December 2013, following the army's overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi following mass protests, she was arrested and imprisoned until September 2014 on charges of participating in a demonstration without a permit.

While in prison, Massry received the Ludovic Trarieux Award, an international prize given out annually to a lawyer for contributions to human rights.

In 2015, Massry was given another year-long sentence for taking part in a sit-in during Morsi's rule.

Egypt effectively banned protests under a law passed following Morsi's 2013 ouster in a military coup.