06 January, 2009

Families of jailed Mahalla demonstrators plead for pardon

El-badeel reports that the families of 22 persons convicted to between 3 and 5 years in prison by an emergency court in Tanta on the 15 of december, has sent a letter to Hosni Mubarak, pleading for their release. The 22 were arrested after the demonstrations in Mahalla on 6 and 7 april 2008, and convicted of assaulting police officers, theft, and illegal possession of weapons and other "dangerous objects." The defense team described the trial of civilians in a security court as unconstitutional, and Amnesty International has called for their retrial in an ordinary court.

In my humble non-expert opinion, the court proceedings in Tanta was nothing but a farce. The defense team managed to show that important physical evidence used was fake - for example, three teachers testified that they had never before seen the computers that were supposedly stolen from their school during the riots in Mahalla. One of the defendants were accused of storing stolen goods in a flat in which he didn't live for 7 years - the police merely took the adress from his out-of-date ID card and put it in their report. (For Swedish readers: click here and here for my reports about the trial).

The 22 people sentenced to jail are merely random poor people being used as scapegoats for the uprising in Mahalla. Their families now fear homelessness and ruin as they have been deprived of any source of income. But I don't think it would be fair to have them retried in an ordinary court as Amnesty has called for - they should be set free immediately and compensated for the 9 months they alread spent in jail.

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