Human Rights Watch (HRW) has condemned Egypt's initiation of at least five Emergency State Security Court trials against high-profile human rights defenders, activists and political opponents on alleged speech offences and called to immediately halt the "unjust trials" where no appeal is possible.
HRW said the trials began before President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi's 25 October announcement ending the country's nationwide state of emergency.
An emergency court yesterday sentenced prominent rights activist Alaa Abdel Fattah to five years imprisonment, and lawyer Mohamed Al-Baqer and blogger Mohamed Oxygen to four-year terms, each on charges of "spreading false news".
"The egregious miscarriage of justice handed down by this exceptional court to punish peaceful expression reveals how Egypt's justice system has itself become a tool of repression," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
"The court should overturn the verdict and release Abdel Fattah, Al-Baqer, and Ibrahim immediately," he added.
"Trials of human rights defenders and peaceful critics in these special courts for peaceful dissent constitute a grave injustice because the President's broad authority over these courts undermines their independence and impartiality. The government's rush to use emergency courts before declaring the end to the state of emergency, after holding people illegally for years in pretrial detention, confirms that fierce repression of peaceful critics remains the order of the day in Egypt," he added.
Scores of human rights defenders, political activists and opponents of the coup authorities spend years in pretrial detention in Egypt – even though the law limits the use of such detainment – before being referred to emergency courts for trial.
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