Two Egyptian parliamentary members are facing trial, Haitham Ezz El-Hariri, who won in Alexandria, and Fatima Naoot, who according to initial electoral results in Cairo is advancing against other candidates.
El-Hariri is facing trial for a case that dates back to June 2013. He is accused of “disrupting public order” following the clashes between Muslim Brotherhood members and activists from the Tamarod campaign that called for protests against former president Mohamed Morsi.
El-Hariri, who supported Tamarod but claimed not to be directly involved in the incidents, appeared before court on Monday. “The court treated me as a parliamentary member without me having to ask for legal immunity,” El-Hariri told Daily News Egypt Tuesday.
He said the judge did not make him enter the cage during the trial, nor did he order his detention, and accepted his release on guarantees that he would attend trial sessions. The court postponed the trial to 24 February. El-Hariri said when the parliament officially takes office; he will have the option of demanding legal immunity if needed.
“A large number of lawyers were with me, the court heard their arguments and testimonies of several eye-witnesses but I am optimistic and expect to be acquitted from charges,” El-Hariri said. He was previously sentenced in the case in absentia to three years in prison.
The trial raised some controversy amid political activists after El-Hariri’s name was allegedly added to the list of suspects after he announced his intentions to run for the elections in January 2014, a year after the events referred to in the case.
El-Hariri won an individual seat in the parliament in the Moharram Bek constituency of Alexandria, where he ran as an independent candidate. In the first round of the elections in October in Alexandria, El-Hariri swept the elections with 24,096 votes out of a total of 75,084 valid votes.
According to official data from the Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC), the candidate who followed El-Hariri obtained 12,552 votes.
On the other hand, Naoot, a renowned writer, has been on trial for months on charges of religious contempt. A post on Facebook by Naoot criticised the ritualised slaughter of animals and the admiration of the idea of sacrifice in monotheistic religions.
The trial sparked wide debates among intellectuals and journalists over the protection of freedom of expression rights in Egypt. A large press conference was held on 10 November at the Press Syndicate calling for the abolition of the legal article related to contempt of religion.
Naoot is running for parliamentary elections in the Cairo constituency of Al-Nozha and Heliopolis as a member of Al-Wafd Party. The second phase of elections took place on Sunday and Monday.
According to the party’s report on initial results, Naoot won with 39,540 votes compared to 24,363 votes for the second candidate. On her personal Facebook page, Naout posted the same numbers. “I thank all voters who supported me because I was not spending exaggerated money on my campaign and for not insulting my competitors,” she wrote.
A trial session in Naoot’s case took place Tuesday and was postponed to 8 December.