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The Egyptian judiciary deploys controversial technology to prolong pre-trial detention

The Supreme Constitutional Court in Cairo on 25 February 2015 [KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images]
The Supreme Constitutional Court in Cairo on 25 February 2015 [KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images]

The Egyptian Ministry of Justice decided to convert oral speech into the written record during court sessions and allow the generalisation of remote pre-trial renewal technology in all courts, as of January 2022, after the project was under trial and limited to certain courts that were electronically equipped.

The new decision allows judges to hold hearings for the renewal of pre-trial detention and its appeal remotely, using technology and record hearing minutes through a technology of converting oral speech into a written record signed by both the president of the court and the session secretary.

This decision faced numerous legal and human rights objections because it conflicts with the law, which requires the Public Prosecution and the accused to be heard alongside their lawyers, who have to articulate their entire defence.

The decision also caused a wave of anger among the families of political prisoners who were prohibited from visiting. It will cause them to be deprived of seeing their relatives during the renewal of their detention sessions. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of political prisoners have been wholly forbidden from having visitors for several years. Therefore, their detention renewal sessions were the only way for their families to check on them.

READ: HRW slams trying Egypt activists before emergency courts

The decision will also prevent political prisoners from seeing the sun on the only day released from their cells. In addition, it deepens the miscarriage of justice as it deprives the prisoner of speaking directly to the judge.

On 18 October 2020, the Ministry of Justice launched the project as part of its vision to achieve prompt justice through digital technology in facilitating and improving litigation procedures.

According to Egyptian law, Supreme State Security prosecutors can hold detainees without judicial review for 15 days, renewable for 5 months, and then for 45 days, renewable for 2 years, without trial. Detainees should be released after the two-year pre-trial period; prosecutors have, however, "recycled" detainees' cases in order to reset the 2-year detention cycle.

Amnesty International says decisions by "terrorism circuit" judges to extend the pre-trial detention of over 1,600 detainees at the Cairo Criminal Court – without regard to fundamental due process guarantees – must be overturned immediately. Additionally, the Organisation called on the Egyptian authorities to unconditionally and immediately release all those detained for peacefully exercising their rights.

Sisi's Prisons - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Egypt Sisi's Prisons – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

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