Amnesty International said authorities must release a group arrested during a protest in June, which includes renowned activists Sanaa Seif and Yara Sallam, on Friday.
The group is made up of 23 people, of which 22 are due to appear before court on Saturday and are being tried for partaking in an assembly in violation of the law, show of force and the use of violence with the aim of terrorising citizens. One person of the 23 is a juvenile and is being tried separately.
Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme Philip Luther said in a statement: “This appears to be yet another show-trial based on scant and dubious evidence that is intended to be a clear warning to anyone who defies Egypt’s protest law”.
The international human rights watchdog described the infamous Protest Law issued by then- interim president Adly Mansour last November as “draconian”.
The group is facing trial for a protest on 21 June organised to show objection to the Protest Law and to call for release of those held behind bars for breaking the controversial law.Several political parties and movements were involved in the protest, including the Revolutionary Socialists, Misr Al-Qawia and Al-Dostour parties.
Amnesty said that based on testimonies and available information, the “charges are almost certainly baseless and the defendants are likely to be prisoners of conscience detained solely for their exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly”.
Amnesty described award winning human rights defender Sallam as a “a prisoner of conscience and said she “must be released immediately and unconditionally”, since Sallam was not involved in the protest and was only passing by the area when she was arrested. Sallam works at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and Amnesty believes that “she has been kept in detention and put on trial because of her work as a human rights defender”.
Meanwhile Seif, who is a member of the No Military Trials of Civilians group, has been on a hunger strike since 28 August. Her brother Alaa is also on a hunger strike, after he was sentenced to 15 years in prison in absentia in June, on charges related to violating the Protest Law. He is currently being retried. Their sister Mona and mother Laila Soueif, who are not behind bars, began their hunger strikes last week.
In a wave of hunger strikes, dozens of activists and politicians have recently embarked on hunger strikes protesting the law and standing in solidarity with hunger striking prisoners.