Egypt Launches 'Grotesque' War On Dissidents


Australian Peter Greste and his Al Jazeera colleagues Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were denied bail earlier this week. Soon after, another Egyptian court sentenced 529 people to death and overnight another 683 faced a similar mass-trial. These instances undermine any claim the Egyptian legal system could make to fairness or adherence to the rule of law.

The grotesque death sentence handed down to the 529 Muslim Brotherhood supporters is the largest batch of simultaneous death sentences we have seen in recent years, anywhere around the globe.

With little evidence and almost no case to make, Egyptian prosecutors seem to be relying on adjournments to keep the journalists behind bars, rather than make serious attempts to prove the trumped-up terrorism charges.

Mohamed Fahmy, an ex-CNN producer and award winning journalist is now reported to have lost the use of his arm after being denied medical treatment by Egyptian authorities.

This mistreatment fits a much wider pattern of repression that has existed in Egypt for decades, even transcending the country’s multiple revolutions. The broader situation in Egypt is complex but cases of journalists and protesters behind bars paint a clear picture of the country’s failure to respect basic human rights.

Activists Alaa Abdel Fattah and Ahmed Abdul Rahmen were brought before a court on Monday after being arrested for protesting the military run trials of civilians in front of Egypt's Shura Council building (the equivalent to our Senate).

The charges of thuggery were laid after security forces violently dispersed the November protest, beating journalists and women before arresting 24 protesters.

After two days, security forces showed up at Fattah's home. They beat him and assaulted his wife before executing a warrant for his arrest.

The men were both released on bail with their trial adjourned until 6 April. A verdict for three female students detained on fabricated charges in Mansoura Public Prison in the country’s north was expected last week.

Abrar Al-Anany, Menatalla Moustafa and Yousra Elkhateeb, all students or graduates of Mansoura University, have been detained since clashes broke out at their university in November last year. All three have denied being involved in the violence and their claims have been corroborated by university security.

All of the women are aged between 18 and 21 and have only been allowed contact with their families for five minutes a week.

The fate of these women is still unclear but there are reports that three unnamed students from Mansoura have been sentenced to five years in prison and handed substantial fines.

The treatment of those languishing in Egyptian prisons came under the spotlight after reports that security forces fired tear gas on 144 children inside the Kom al-Deka juvenile detention facility in Alexandria.

The children — who are detained for blocking roads, belonging to a terrorist organisation and chanting at police — began to protest their transfer to another facility that is reported to use torture and other cruel treatment against detainees. Security forces also fired tear gas to disperse parents of the children as they protested outside the prison.

International attention on these cases, sparked by the outrageous arrest of the Al Jazeera staff, will only translate into freedom and fairness in Egpyt if people act on their outrage.

Petitions, letters and demonstrations of international solidarity work. We have seen them work before, for instance when Egypt released wrongfully imprisoned blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad after months of international pressure.

Australians will be asked to join the call to free the Al Jazeera staff with a show of national solidarity for those wrongfully imprisoned in Egypt. It will start in April and finish when Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed are free.

We’ll need your voice to help return justice to Egypt — if you are prepared to use it, start here.

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