Monday, December 15, 2008

22 defendants in Mahalla trial sentenced to 3-5 years

The Tanta Supreme Security Court judge al Sayyed Abdel-Maaboud issued verdicts today on the 49 defendants in the case concerning events in Mahalla on April 6th-7th. 22 defendants received prison sentences of 3-5 years and 27 were acquitted.The charges brought against them could have rendered a maximum of 15 years imprisonment.

One of those convicted was a 58 year old woman ,Fawzeya Hafez El Shinnawy, she was sentenced for carrying a molotow cocktail. She, togheter with four others facing prison terms were tried in absentia.

Prior to announcing the verdict the judge, Al Sayyed abd al Maaboud stated that :

¨price rises were a global phenomenon and not the fault of the Egyptian government and he praised the restraint of security forces in quelling the demonstrations¨.

My thoughts on the judges statement

While i hope to see the judge statement in full soon, i will give my quick thoughts on the statement above.

While the hounorable judge is perfectly correct in his assumption that the price rises is in some parts indeed a global phenomenon(a subject that the judge has little expertise knowledge about, i´m sure.), and aknowledging the rapid response of the government just days after the riots when a delegation of ministers, headed by PM Ahmed Nazif headed to Mahalla to speak with the workers. Also recognizing the effort of the government in giving a 30 percent salary raise to government employees.

This is in my humble view, all good things , albeit too little, and too late, it´s merely a temporary band aid, and further more, just a week after announcing the wage increase, a law was rushed through parliament, putting into effect steep price raises on petrol and tobacco, meaning that some of the wage raise, is taken away from those who got it in the first place. On top of that the inflation has kept on increasing and peaked in July to it´s highest in 16 years, since then having dropped, but still significantly over 20 percent, with the November numbers at 20.9, this, despite the fact that the Central Bank is doing all it can to get the Egyptian economy back on track. I havent mentioned the bread crisis, that the government was ultimately responsible of, but after a very slow start, handled in a way that might come close to adequate.

The statement of the judge regarding the security forces showing restraint during April 6-7th, is nothing but laughable, considering the manyreports of torture and ill-treatment , and the only picture that flashes through my mind, is a very vivid one of young teenagers in their hospital beds, being handcuffed to the bed.

I have a hard time understanding the necessity of a judge passing judgement on anythinhg, but his specific case. I´m really not keen to know his views on how the government economical policies toward the food crisis faired, nor am i concerned with his views on how good the security forces behaved. What would intrigue my curiosity is how the hounorable judge, views an investigation that is said to have contained a lot of anonymous secondary sources, i would like to know his views on the alleged torture of defendant Hamada Tewfiq, these are questions that i want answered by the judge, because these questions is within the frame of his work related expertise. I guess that unanswered questions is also answer, highly respected right hounorable judge.

Background to trial

The last working session of the trial before the verdict was held on November 13th.
The 49 was refered to Court on June 17th, and the trial started on August 9th.

The occurence of emergency trials has been critizised by Egyptian and international Human Rights Groups alike, due to lack of fair trial standards and the absence of the possibility to appeal the verdict.

My sympathy and thoughts goes out to the 22 convicted and their families, especially the 58-year old supposedly ¨molotow¨ lady, and her family, regardless of the fact that she´s still at large. My thoughts also goes to the three who lost their lives during April 6-7th, among them 15-year old Ahmed Hamada, none of these deaths has been investigated , as of yet.

Sarah Carr has a photo set on her flickr account, from the Tanta Court house today.

The Hisham Mubarak Law Center issued a list of trial No 5498/2008, the verdicts, and those convicted here(each one has a number, their names dosen´t appear, i´ll try to present a list of those convicted, as well as those acquitted later on today).

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