The North Cairo Criminal Court has acquitted 62 defendants charged with inciting murder, thuggery, possessing unlicensed weapons, vandalising public facilities, blocking roads and using force against the security forces stemming from a clash with police in Ramses Square on 15 July of last year.
Among the acquitted was Al Jazeera Mubasher cameraman Mohamed Badr. While reporting on the clashes, Badr was swept up with the scores of arrested protestors and charged with attempted murder and possession of a weapon, despite his press credentials.
Badr’s detainment was condemned by rights groups fighting the persecution of journalists, including the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Amnesty International.
“This is an excellent verdict and offers hope in light of all the recent detainments and guilty verdicts,” said lawyer and rights activist, Khaled El-Masry. “Upholding the rule of law is what we want.”
Clashes on 15 July erupted when supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi, ousted less than two weeks earlier, attempted to block traffic on a downtown section of the 6th October Bridge. Security forces responded with volleys of tear gas. Seven were killed and 261 were injured in the fighting that ensued.
Since Morsi’s 3 July ouster, thousands of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood have been arrested and detained. Morsi and 14 other Brotherhood leaders will appear in court on Tuesday for inciting violence leading to the killing of protesters outside the presidential palace in December 2012.
Badr’s acquittal comes less than a week after 20 Al Jazeera staffers were referred court, charged with crimes including spreading false news and belonging to a terrorist group. The charges have drawn widespread international condemnation.
According to a December 2013 report by the CPJ, Egypt ranks among the top ten jailors of journalists in the world. A separate CPJ report from December listed Egypt as the third deadliest nation for journalists after Syria and Iraq.