“No One Is Being Released Anymore”: Monitoring Report on the Performance of Terrorism Circuits Courts in the Pre-Trial Phase During 2023


The Egyptian Front for Human Rights issues (EFHR) this annual monitoring report to track the performance of Terrorism Circuits Courts (TCC) in the pre-trial phase and monitor their performance in sessions to renew the detention orders of defendants before the Consultation Chamber, and to monitor decisions to renew detention and release detainees in these sessions during the year 2023. EFHR monitored the official decisions issued by those circuits and analyzed the official lists containing the names of the suspects, then analyzed the information contained therein and input it into the databases.

This report is part of a series of reports issued by the EFHR over four years to monitor the performance of TCC, following the release of the its first report regarding developments of these circuits. It is worth mentioning that based on a complaint submitted by the EFHR regarding these circuits, six Special Rapporteurs and working groups in the United Nations issued a letter in October 2020 addressed to the Egyptian government expressing their concern about these circuits as they violate international conventions and undermine fair trial guarantees.

This report presents the observed numbers throughout the year 2023 and analyzes them. It also presents a comparison of the performance of TCC in the pre-trial phase between 2020-2023, highlighting the period of reactivation of the Presidential Pardon Committee and its potential impact on the work of TCC, especially regarding decisions to release detainees. Additionally, it provides commentary on the policies of these circuits in considering the cases brought before them, and highlights the most prominent violations experienced by lawyers and defendants before them.

Performance of TCC in the Pre-Trial Phase during 2022:

According to the monitoring conducted by the EFHR during 2023 regarding the performance of Terrorism Circuits Courts (TCC) in the pre-trial phase, TCC almost stopped releasing suspects in state security cases. During 2023, 3 Circuits held 127 sessions, reviewing no less than 35,966 detention renewal orders distributed among 3,166 state security cases (with an unknown number in 13 sessions). The TCC issued no more than 3 release orders for detainees, accounting for less than 0.1% of the total detention orders reviewed before them. Meanwhile, they automatically issued detention renewal orders for 45 days for the rest of the detainees, marking a significant decrease in the number of releases compared to the past three years.

The reactivation of the Presidential Pardon Committee since the end of April 2022 led TCC to abandon their pretense of judicial independence in reviewing detention renewal decisions and releasing some individuals, as they did in the past, albeit to a small extent. Instead, they left this task entirely to the Public Prosecution or lists of the Presidential Pardon Committee, passed on to the prosecution after being examined by Security Agencies, including the National Security Agency that initially arrested them. Thus, these Circuits, after a year and a half of activating the Pardon Committee, became closer to entities aiming to legitimize arbitrary detention by automatically issuing detention renewal orders for detainees, including those who exceeded the legal period of pretrial detention. It is worth mentioning that since the activation of the Pardon Committee until the end of 2023, TCC issued release orders for only 145 individuals, a deficient number compared to the numbers and proportions of releases before them in previous years.

Release decisions in front of TCC since 2020 compared to releases since the activation of the Pardon committee in April 2022 until the end of 2023

Comparison between the decisions of TCC in the pre-trial Phase in the years between 2020 and 2023.

In comparison with the statistics of 2023 monitored by the EFHR with the statistics between 2020-2023, amidst a number of sessions comparable to previous years, the decisions to release defendants significantly declined in 2022 and almost ceased in 2023. This marks a sharp decrease compared to both the years 2021 and 2020. Only 3 defendants were released in 2023, while 354 defendants were released throughout the year 2022, compared to 976 defendants released in 2021 and 758 released in 2020, as illustrated in the following table:

Comparison between the numbers and percentages of releases during the years 2020-2023

The performance of TCC and the percentage of releases compared to renewal of detention decisions before them during the year 2023

A detailed look at the decisions of TCC during the year 2023

First: A look at the changes that occurred within TCC during the year

There were changes in the composition of some circuits in the second half of 2023, where Judge Essam Abu Al-Ala, a member of the first circuit chaired by Judge Mohamed El-Saeed El-Sherbiny, was transferred and Judge Mahmoud Mohamed Zeidan assumed his position. Also, Judge Mohamed Hamad, the head of the second circuit, was transferred to be replaced by Judge Mohamed Mohamed Ammar, then Judge Hamada El-Sawy (former Attorney General).

The majority of the decisions to renew detention were in favor of the first circuit chaired by Judge Mohamed El-Saeed El-Sherbiny and with the membership of Gharib Ali Gharib, Essam Abu Al-Ala, and Mahmoud Mohamed Zeidan. The circuit held 40 sessions during the year, considering the detention of at least 17,912 defendants distributed over 1,623 cases. The circuit issued only two release orders throughout the year, while the rest of the defendants remained detained.

The second circuit, chaired by Judge Mohamed Hamad Abdel Hadi and with the membership of Mohamed Ammar and Ali Amera, held 15 sessions during the first half of the year, considering the detention of at least 5,135 defendants distributed over 386 cases, and did not issue any release orders, deciding to renew the detention of all defendants. After the change of the circuit’s president in late June 2023, with Judge Mohamed Mohamed Ammar assuming the new presidency, the circuit held 16 sessions until the end of the year, considering the detention of at least 3,733 defendants distributed over 301 cases, and also did not issue any release orders, deciding to continue the detention of all defendants.

As for the third circuit, chaired by Judge Wajdi Mohamed Abdel Moneim and with the membership of Wael Mohamed Omran and Mohamed Nabil Abdel Rahman, it held 34 sessions during the first half of the year, considering the detention of at least 9,186 defendants distributed over 780 cases, and issued only one release order throughout the year, deciding to renew the detention of the rest of the defendants.

Secondly: Highlights of the violations observed by the circuits in the first half of 2023

  1. Almost ceasing to issue release orders: According to the monitoring of the EFHR of the decisions of these circuits during the year 2023, there was a sharp decrease in the release orders issued by them, with only 3 release orders issued throughout 127 sessions, after the activation of the presidential Pardon Committee at the end of April 2022. Despite the initial decrease in the percentage of release orders issued by them over the previous years, this percentage almost disappeared during the year 2023. The role of the TCC was confined to automatically renewing detention orders after the formation of the Pardon Committee.

  2. Continuing to ignore the complaints of detainees about their conditions of detention: The EFHR observed that the circuits were violating the rights of detainees during detention renewal sessions via video conferencing. Among the violations noted were the inability of detainees to communicate directly with their judges and lawyers without barriers, as well as detainees attending their detention renewal sessions from the places of detention they complained about. Furthermore, lawyers representing detainees in these sessions confirmed that the circuits were not responsive to the health conditions of detainees, including the elderly and the sick, and that the use of conferencing technology was used to restrict detainees’ speech. These violations continued alongside the disregard of complaints from detainees in Badr 3 prison about the prohibition of visits, their deteriorating living conditions inside the prison, continuous lighting, surveillance cameras in cells, and dozens of them resorting to suicide as a means of pressuring prison administration to allow visits. Lawyers for the EFHR also reported that Judge Wajdi Abdel Moneim, the head of the third circuit, restricted detainees during discussions in a session on January 23, 2023, and ordered the closure of video for detainees banned from visits in Badr 3, and continued to mute detainees throughout the sessions despite defense requests to allow detainees to speak. Judge Mohamed Hamad also interrupted detainees in Badr 3 prison during a session on March 13, 2023, while they were discussing violations they faced from the prison’s chief investigator, the officer, and the attempted suicide of 200 detainees to pressure the prison administration to allow visits. He sought to end communication with the prison, refused to open an independent report to prove detainees’ statements about the violations they faced, and described the Sherbiny and Gharib circuits as the worst in handling renewals, where the circuits renewed detention on paper despite the lack of communication between the circuits and the detainees, rejecting lawyers’ requests for adjournment, and creating problems with lawyers when they objected to their behavior in managing sessions and not allowing them to speak or present their defenses. Lawyers for the EFHR also mentioned that Judge Wajdi Abdel Moneim noted a case where a detainee tried to speak and complain about his health problems, where the judge responded by saying, “This is not my specialization but the public prosecutor’s,” then muted him and interrupted the lawyers.

  3. Continuing to cut off video conferencing and confiscate detainees’ right to be heard: In detention renewal sessions on January 23, January 24, and April 10, Judge Wajdi Abdel Moneim, the head of the third circuit, and Judge Mohamed Hamad, the head of the second circuit, disconnected communication with detainees in Badr 3 prison while they were speaking via video conferencing, when they were discussing violations against them inside the prison, and the possibility of deaths among detainees as a result of their suicide attempts. They were not allowed to speak thereafter, while their complaints were ignored.

  4. Renewing detention despite the refusal of detainees to attend renewal sessions:On April 10, the second circuit issued orders to renew the detention of detainees, despite their refusal to attend renewal sessions before these circuits via video conferencing. Among them were all detainees in Case 1530 of 2019 and those detained in Badr 1 prison, who refused to attend the court. Likewise, Two defandants informed their colleagues that they refused to attend court sessions due to the absence of any benefit from their attendance, and that the circuit would renew their detention regardless. According to lawyers, communication was cut off from Badr 1 and Badr 3 prisons more than once during renewal hearings, and communication was cut off in the session on August 5 from detainees in Al-Asher 2 prison, and Judge Sherbiny refused to adjourn the session and renewed the detention of detainees despite their absence. Lawyers for the EFHR mentioned the background of renewal hearings in places of detention, that detainees are taken out of cells from 9:00 am and placed in the renewal hall without food until the judge opens the sound and considers the renewal, which sometimes causes some of them to faint.

  1. Continuing to hear renewal of detention in a small room that cannot accommodate the court and defense:
    Lawyers for The EFHR stated that the consultation room in Badr Criminal Court is extremely small, unable to accommodate the circuits members and the defense, forcing them to stay outside the deliberation room during the renewal session, which prevents them from making their arguments sufficiently. Lawyers for the EFHR also mentioned some reasons for overcrowding, that the judge directly handles renewals geographically, prison by prison, which leads to a large number of detainees and defense inside the deliberation room


It can be said that the reactivation of the presidential pardon committee contributed significantly to the cessation of terrorism Circuits from issuing the few release orders they used to issue over the previous years. After a year and seven months of reactivating the committee, the number of release orders issued by the TCCs diminished until it completely stopped during the last ten months of 2023. The role of terrorism Circuits was limited to automatically renewing detention orders without reviewing the papers of detainees or even their attendance at sessions while continuing to commit the same practices over the previous years. This is a clear indication of the lack of hope for improving the performance of these Circuits, especially with their cessation of issuing release orders and their adoption of detention orders. These Circuits wasted the right to assume innocence, restricted defense attorneys in making their arguments, disregarded the requests of detainees and attorneys, complaints about places of detention where detainees are renewed in them, and the failure to release detainees who have exceeded the period of pre-trial detention prescribed by law.

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