The performance of Terrorism Circuits Courts (TCC) in the pre-trial phase during 2020

Egyptian Front for Human Rights has observed the performance of the terrorism circuits in reviewing the renewal of pretrial detention orders during 2020, as well as the number of cases, defendants, the release decisions and decisions to maintain imprisonment. The Front also monitored the systematic and repeated conduct of these circuits where the defendants’ rights to defence are violated, in addition to the recurring violation of guarantees to a fair trial as well as the Egyptian law.

During 2020, the terrorism circuits considered the renewal of pretrial detention orders of around 20,998 defendants, during 114 investigation sessions held by those circuits pending at least 2581 cases, where they issued release orders for only 758 defendants, with a percentage that does not exceed 3.6 % out of the defendants standing before the circuits. As the Egyptian authorities escalated using the policy of “recycling cases”, it should be noted that some of the defendants who acquired release orders have not been effectively released as their detention is recycled pending new cases, thus they remain in prison.

Number of Circuits Number of Sessions Cases considered for renewal Renewal of Detention orders Release Decisions Percentage of Release 

Decisions

5 114 2581 20998 758 3.6%

Table showing the performance of terrorist circuits in the pre-trial stage

President of the Chamber Circuit Number of Sessions Cases considered for Renewal Renewal of Detention orders Release Decisions Percentage of release decisions
Moataz Khafagi 2 26 745 5813 512 8.8%
Mohamed Shereen Fahmy 1 28 540 4313 108 2.5%
Mohamed Saeed ElSherbini 5A 39 909 6647 81 1.2%
Shabaib ElDamrany 3 4 85 316 6 1.8%
Khaled Hashem 3 2 43 284 5 1.7%
Essam Abu Elela 5B 5 74 843 13 1.5%
Mohamed Abdel Satar 3 10 185 2782 33 1.1%
Total 5 114 2581 20998 758 3.6%

Table showing the performance of the terrorism circuits Judges in the pre-trial stage

Throughout 2020, the lawyers of the Egyptian Front who attended several investigation sessions with their clients were able to trace repeated practices carried out by the terrorism circuits, of which we can conclude certain violations:- 

1- Violation of the Right to Defence

  • The terrorism circuits began their renewal sessions in the absence of the defendants and without allowing their lawyers to represent them. The circuits’ decision to renew the defendants detention for 45 days came in violation of Articles 136 & 143 of the Criminal Procedures Code which stipulates hearing the defence and the statements of the defendants before issuing the decision to detain them. The authorities attributed failing to bring the defendants from their custody to court to the Coronavirus pandemic or to security reasons relating to running the parliamentary elections. 
  • It has been proven several times that the court does not verify the presence of the defendants to the session in the first place, and decides to detain them in presence despite not being brought from their detention. The lawyers have objected within the investigation sessions more than once to this violation, to the extent that sharp quarrels broke out between the defense bodies and circuit 3, but this defective practice continued.
  • The court does not consider the statements of the defendants if they actually attend the hearings. Counselor Moataz Khafagi has repeatedly not allowed the defendants to leave the dock and listen to their statements, except in limited cases.
  • The court exercises clear intransigence against the lawyers, as it does not allow them to express defenses or speak to the defendants if they are present at the hearing.

2- Violation of the Rule of the Law

  • The court did not release the defendants whose prison terms exceeded the legally stipulated two-year period of pre-trial detention, also the terrorism circuits did not implement the law, even in light of the spread of a virus threatening the safety of detainees under poor detention conditions. For example, Counselor Mohammad Saeed Al-Sherbiny, Head of the Fifth circuit, violated Article 143 of the Criminal Procedure Code, through renewing the detention of defendants held in connection with cases 79/2016, 760/2017, 441/2018 and 640/2018 despite their exceeding the two-year period stipulated by law. In several sessions, Counselor Moataz Khafagi renewed the imprisonment of the defendants pending cases 760/2017, 316/2017, 828/2017 and 79/2016, despite the expiration of the statutory period for their detention.
  • In the session of May 3, 2020, which was headed by Judge Moataz Khafagi to consider the matter of extending the pre-trial detention of 154 defendants held pending 15 cases, the decision of the circuit was to postpone consideration of renewal until the hearing of May 10, 2020, as the defendants could not be brought from their detention, without taking into account the stipulated legal period of 45 days, which consequently leads to the expiration of the imprisonment of defendants in many cases, for exceeding the period of 45 days. Whereas the last detention renewal session was on March 15, 2020, and the hearing was postponed to March 30, 2020, yet the circuit was not held, it was in turn administratively postponed until May 3, meaning that the defendants’ imprisonment lasted 49 days, which necessitated their release for the lapse of their pre-trial detention period.
  • Circuit 3 issued a decision to release defendant Somaya Maher Ahmed Hazima, who was held in pretrial detention for a period of up to three years and three months, pending the Supreme State Security Case 955/2017. The decision was issued with her presence and the judge had released her with precautionary measures, giving the decision a clear legal capacity, but while at the prosecution, the defendant’s defense found that the judge had changed his decision and already issued another decision that renews her detention for 45 days.

3- Violating the Right to the Presumption of Innocence

  • Terrorism circuits do not apply the right of being presumed innocent until proven guilty to all defendants. It is noted that these circuits release some of them while continuing to imprison others who are charged in the same cases. This incident was repeated in the 11/3/2020 session, in which judge Moataz Khafagi issued a decision to release 468 defendants, yet in the following day, he renewed the detention of all those present before his circuit, despite their conditions and legal status being identical to those released in the previous session and that they are accused in the same case. 
  • The terrorism circuits rely in its renewal decisions solely on the investigations of the national security which do not amount to evidence of incrimination that prove the charges against the defendants without leaving room for doubt, it was also noted that circuit 3 specifically only reviews national security investigations out of the case papers. 

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