Hearing collapses in Egypt trial of 494, including Irish teen
December 1, 2014
A mass trial hearing for almost 500 people collapsed this morning in Cairo, with the judge failing to attend and defendants unable to enter a court packed with masked pro-Government supporters.
Reports from the makeshift courtroom in Tora prison suggest that there was no judge in attendance throughout, and the room was full of supporters of the Government – many wearing masks in an apparent attempt to intimidate defence lawyers. The families of the 494 defendants were reportedly barred from entering the room, while the prisoners themselves were not called in.
The group of 494, arrested in August 2013 in a sweeping crackdown on protests, includes several juveniles being tried in violation of Egypt’s Child Laws – among them Irish teenager Ibrahim Halawa, who was 17 at the time of his arrest. Mr Halawa has reported being tortured and denied medical attention during his 18-month detention.
The 494 face potential death sentences, in the latest in a series of mass trials that has attracted condemnation from the UN, US, and Egyptian rights groups.
Today’s hearing has been postponed for another month – continuing a long hiatus in effect since August this year, when a three-judge panel resigned mid-hearing citing their ‘unease’.
The proceedings come days after another court handed down sentences totalling 340 years to 78 children in a mass trial at which their lawyers were not allowed to be present.
Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at legal charity Reprieve, which is assisting Mr Halawa, said: “The chaos at today’s hearing shows this mass trial for what it is – a mockery of justice. The defendants and their families were shut out of the room, but masked Government supporters were allowed to attend in droves – and the judge didn’t even turn up. Meanwhile, these 494 people have already spent 18 months in prison, and been told they could face death at any time. The international community must intervene now to prevent this travesty from going any further.”
Notes to editors
1. For further information, please contact Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8160