The Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR) called on President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi Monday to grant amnesty to 22 defendants serving time for participating in a protest in June.
The 22 defendants were originally sentenced to three years imprisonment on 26 October, and were ordered to pay a fine of EGP 10,000 each. They appealed the sentence, and on Sunday their jail time was reduced to two years, but they were ordered to an additional two years of parole after their release.
EOHR said it respects the rulings of the judiciary, but called for the amnesty of all defendants, based on their right to “assemble and express their opinions, which are rights guaranteed in the constitution”.
An amnesty pardon includes dropping the verdict as well as removing the charges from the defendants’ criminal records.
The case has come to be known as the “presidential palace” trial, since the activists were protesting outside the Itihadeya Palace.
Among the defendants are Sanaa Seif, sister of renowned activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, and Yara Sallam, a researcher for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) and award-winning human rights activist.
Human rights organisations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW), and EIPR have condemned the verdict.
The protests in question was organised to voice opposition to the controversial Protest Law, issued in November 2013, and called for the release of people arrested for violating this law. EOHR renewed its calls for amending the law.
EOHR’s Head, Hafez Abu Saeda, said the Protest Law in its current form leads to “serious violations of the right to peaceful assembly because of the restrictions it imposes on protesting”.
The Protest Law requires organisers of any public assembly – whether it is a protest, march, or general meeting – to submit a written notice to the nearest police station with their plans at least three working days in advance. It also gives police officials the authority to cancel, postpone or change the route of a protest, should they acquire “serious information or evidence that the assembly would threaten national peace and security”.
The law has been the source of heavy criticism since its inception as draft, from both international and domestic rights organisations. Most organisations described it as repressive, stating that it infringes on rights to freedom of assembly and expression, as dictated by the constitution.