By POMED –
The past few days have seen several updates on the judicial front, including in the case of Marco Gerges, who was sentenced to five years in prison on January 29 on charges including “contempt of Islam.”
- Gerges was accused of “exploiting Islam” and “transgressing Egyptian family values” for images that the police found on his phone. Prosecutors subsequently questioned him about his relations with women and whether he drinks alcohol. The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, which defended Gerges, described the conviction as “a new episode in a series of prosecutions and trials of citizens in the context of restricting freedom of expression.”
- The Office of Ratification of Emergency State Security Provisions, meanwhile, canceled the five-year sentence against researcher Ahmed Abdo Maher, who was convicted in an emergency court on blasphemy charges last November over a book he wrote criticizing practices such as child marriage. He faces a retrial on February 7.
- Though Egypt’s state of emergency ended last October, emergency courts continue to handle cases that were referred to them before then. Their rulings cannot be appealed through a normal process, but they require final approval by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi or someone he designates on his behalf.
- Last week, POMED and dozens of other organizations called on al-Sisi to quash the bogus emergency court verdicts against seven other arbitrarily detained human rights defenders, activists, and politicians who were sentenced to long prison terms solely for peacefully exercising their human rights.
On February 1, an emergency court again postponed the trial of Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights researcher Patrick George Zaki until April 6 to meet several of the defense’s requests.
- Zaki was arrested in February 2020 upon his arrival at the airport in Cairo, where he was intending to spend a short vacation with friends and family while pursuing his master’s degree in gender and human rights studies in Italy. He spent nearly two years behind bars, where he experienced threats and torture.
- Despite being released from prison last December, Zaki is still facing trial before an unfair emergency court simply for writing an article reflecting on the struggles of Coptic Christians in Egypt.
- At the Feb. 1 hearing, Zaki’s lawyers said that they could not present their arguments until the court responds to several requests, including that the court authorize the release of videos from Cairo airport showing Zaki being arrested. The court then adjourned the trial until April.
- Riccardo Noury, Amnesty International’s Italy spokesperson, called on Zaki’s supporters to “accompany him in this long wait to what we hope will be the last hearing.”