A week ago, an Egyptian court sentenced 39 defendants to life imprisonment and 44 others, including 23 children, to long-term imprisonment over the September 2019 protests against Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
The city of resistance
On September 20, 2019, protests erupted all over the Egyptian cities demanding to topple Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his regime. Mohamed Ali, a dissident businessman who fled Egypt, triggered the protests after he unveiled Sisi’s extravagant behaviour in building presidential palaces and luxurious hotels for his friends while imposing austerity on the people.
Suez was the primary responder to Mohamed Ali’s leaks. Thousands of people took to the street in the Arb’en (The Forty), the main square in the city, for several days, chanting against Sisi. The that gave canal between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea that links the West and the East its name, enjoys a special symbolic status for the Egyptians, as it was the city of resistance during wars against the Israeli occupation of Sinai and was the most militant city in struggling against Mubarak’s regime during January 25 Revolution in 2011. The city’s protests in 2019 struck a chord with the security services and the government, who decided a crackdown on the Suez people detaining dozens of them.
The detainees were listed in case 1357 of 2019, investigated by the Supreme State Security Prosecution, a prosecution branch assigned to political cases. In April 2021, 103 people, including 28 children, were referred to the State Security Court, an exceptional emergency court immune from cassation and directly following the country’s military ruler. According to the emergency law, the country becomes ruled by a military ruler, now Abdel Fattah al-Sisi himself, and he is the sole person who can uphold this court sentence or annul them. Charges against the defendants included spreading a social media video urging them to protest, calling for a predetermined demonstration obstructing transport and using force against riot police.
A year and a half after starting the trial, the State Security Criminal Court sentenced businessman Mohamed Ali, who called for the protests and lives now in exile, to life imprisonment along with 38 other defendants, 12 of them are already in jail. Belady for women and children rights said 23 children, arrested while 15 to 17 years, were sentenced and subjected to detention violations. The sentence now waits for the military ruler’s ratification.
Lawyer Mohamed Farahat stressed the sentences exceeded limits noting the court acquitted children who admitted the charges while sentencing those who denied them. The only girl involved in the trial was sentenced to 5-year imprisonment. However, according to lawyer Ahmed Helmy, she was arrested and inspected without a prosecution warrant, and her name was not inserted in the investigations. Helmy pointed out that hundreds of people were arrested over the country after the protests, but Suez people were spotted for political punishment. Three leading human rights organizations, Shehab Center, the Egyptian Network for Human Rights and the Egyptian Front for Human Rights, denounced the sentences demanding the Egyptian authorities revoke the trial and make another free one.