Article no 143 of Egyptian Code of Criminal Procedure stipulates that “In all cases, the period of pretrial detention shall not exceed one-third of the maximum penalty for the crime committed”. Pretrial detention is set at “six months for misdemeanour crimes, 18 months for criminal offences and two years in case of crimes receiving the life sentence or the death penalty.” In 2013, Interim president Adly Mansour amended this article to stipulate that in case the accused faces charges that carry a death or life sentence, pretrial detention can be extended for 45-day periods indefinitely upon the authorization of the court hearing the case or the Court of Cassation.
Two years is the maximum period for pretrial detention for all persons in custody who have not been sentenced yet. However, Egyptian security bodies tampers the law to keep activists and opposition behind bars for more than two years through a pattern dubbed “recycling”. Recycling refers to adding the defendant to more than one case facing similar charges in both cases with the aim of prolonging pretrial detention to exceed the stipulated period.
In December 2019, Mohamed el Qasas, deputy head of Strong Egypt party, was ordered released by general prosecutor after two years of pre-trial detention in case no. 977/2017 only to find his release procedures halted and was added to a new case no. 1781/2019
Al Qasas is held in solitary confinement during his pre-trial detention in grave violation of the law. His accusations range from financing the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), commanding units within the group, communicating with MB leaders from inside the prison and during his visits to the court. In light of these accusations against a person who is kept in solitary confinement, the Egyptian state has to choose between one of the following options: either to vindicate State Security investigations and thus confirm corruption within prison administration or to exonerate the ministry of interior, and this will indicate the corruption of State Security body which fabricates accusations in order to extend pretrial detention durations.
Al Qassas is not the only one who has faced this pattern. The Egyptian state is developing new patterns and measures in order to keep the opposition behind bars including detainees who are held in pre-trial detention or with precautionary measures. It also includes defendants who have served their sentence or are still on probation. Egyptian Front presents in the following pages 6 patterns developed by Egyptian authorities to “recycle cases” in order to keep opposing defendants revolving in circles of accusations that cannot be even considered as clues.
These six patterns have created a number of cases that include hundreds of defendants held based on loose accusations such as joining a group established against the law (the name of the group is not even indicated), spreading false news, harming the public interest, or inciting hatred against the country. In fact, investigations upon which these accusations are placed, are not based on proof or witnesses except the police forces.
First: Recycling cases during pretrial detention
- Detention pending investigations in two cases.
In this case, authorities add the accused to two cases from the beginning of their detention and place similar charges against them, according to a record filed by a citizen or the prosecution. So, even after their release is ordered from the first case they are still held on remand in the other one.
This exactly happened to activist Mohamed Adel who was arrested from Aga police station in Al Dakahleya in June 19, 2018 while serving his probation sentence. He was brought before Al Mansoura prosecution where he faced charges of disseminating false news and was held on remand in case 5606/2018 Aga Administration. Two weeks later, on July 5th, he was brought to Sherbeen prosecution facing nearly similar charges. Charges included leading a group established contrary to the provisions of the law (6th of April Movement) with the aim of inciting hatred toward the state and its establishments and spreading false news.
- Detention pending investigations in a new case after months of detention in the first case
In some cases, after months of detention pending investigations in a case, prosecution adds the defendant to a new case accusing him of charges similar to the already existing one. In this case, if the defendant is acquitted of one case, he will still be held on remand in the other case.
Rights defenders Ezzat Ghoniem and Azoz Mahgoub were amongst those subjected to this pattern of recycling. In March 2018, they were detained pending investigations in case no 44 against the backdrop of defending Om Zobayda facing charges of spreading false news and joining a group established against the law. A year later, in July 28, 2019, they were added to a new case no 1118/2019 State Security facing similar charges while still being held on remand in relation to the first case. Hence, they are currently held pending investigations in two cases; if they’re acquitted of one, they will be still held pending trial in the second.
- Opening a new case after defendant ordered released from the first one
This is the most common amongst recycling patterns. After the prosecution or the court orders the release of the detainee and before the actual release, same prosecution summons the accused again on the grounds of another record filed against him and order his detention pending trial in a new case.
Lawyer Ibrahim Metwally forcibly disappeared before boarding the flight to Geneva to attend a meeting with Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) held by the UN. He appeared and was detained pending investigations in case 900/ 2017 state security on charges of organizing a group established against the law. After two years, in mid-October, 2019 he was released only to forcibly disappear again where, after he reappeared, he was added to case 1471/2019 facing similar charges of joining and financing a terrorist group.
- Detention after release and during probation
This pattern appears when a defendant is ordered released on precautionary measures and gets arrested while serving probation as ordered. After the arrest, the defendant forcibly disappears then reappears before the prosecution facing charges in a new case that he has been added to. Haytham Mohamadeen, labor lawyer, was arrested in May 16, 2019 from al Saff police station while serving his probation and was added to case no 741/2016 facing charges of joining a group established against the law and using social media platforms to spread false news. Worthy to note that Haytham was on probation as an alternative to detention pending investigation in case no 781/2018, known as “Metro protests case”
Second: Recycling cases during stages of court order execution
- Detention during the release procedures after serving the sentence
In this case, after the defendants have served their sentence and while awaiting their release, the prosecution adds them to a new case based on a security record to start a new round of detention. This happened with Gehad el Haddad. After six years he was acquitted of two cases known as “espionage with Qatar “and “Rabaa’s operations room”, and before his release he was added to case no 1400/2019 State Security facing charges of leading a terrorist group inside prison and providing them with information and instruction.
- Arrest during serving probation sentence
Following this pattern, authorities arrest defendants while still serving their probation sentence by spending 12 hours daily in the police station, according to law 99/1945. After being arrested, they are added to new cases and held in pre-trial detention. This occurred with activist Alaa Abd el-Fattah who was arrested while still on probation. Alaa was released after serving his five-year sentence in a case known as Al Shura council, only to be arrested in the morning of September 29 while he was in the station serving his probation. He was then added to case 136/2019 State Security facing accusations of spreading false news, joining a terrorist group established against the law, funding a terrorist group, and misusing social media platforms.