AFTE condemns banning its lawyers from attending sessions with each defendant separately before the Third Circuit of the Terrorism Criminal Court

Date : Wednesday, 28 February, 2024

Director of AFTE’s Legal Aid Unit: The court’s decision undermines the guarantees for a fair trial, and it is illegal to consider the renewals of detention collectively

28 February 2024

The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) condemns the decision by the Third Circuit of the Terrorism Criminal Court to prevent lawyers, including AFTE’s lawyers, from attending sessions with their clients separately. The court’s decision prevented the defense team from communicating with the defendants, thus leading AFTE’s lawyers to withdraw from the hearings, which were held at Badr Rehabilitation and Correctional Center on 25 February.

Commenting on the move, Director of AFTE’s Legal Aid Unit Fatma Serag said: “What happened is a clear violation of the rights of both the defense panel and the defendants. It undermines the guarantees of a fair trial. It is illegal to consider the renewals of the defendants’ detention collectively before the same circuit. Both defendants and their lawyers should be enabled to communicate with each other, and the lawyers should be allowed to present their arguments for each defendant separately.”

During its 25 February session, the court suddenly informed the lawyers that the number of defendants brought before it was large and that only two lawyers would be allowed to attend the session to represent all defendants coming from each prison. So, there would be no chance for the lawyer to make sure that his client was present despite the fact that the hearing was held via video conference.

Some lawyers objected to the measure, so the court told them that it would adjourn the hearing. However, it held the hearing, and every lawyer present, with a defendant coming from the prison displayed on the screen, began to present their arguments before the court. The court began the session by presenting the defendants detained in the “Tenth of Ramadan Prison – 6”. After considering the renewal of the detention of a few defendants separately, while the rest of the lawyers were waiting to enter the courtroom, the court announced that it was done with the cases of the “Tenth of Ramadan Prison – 6” defendants.

The lawyers could not make sure that activist Sherif al-Rouby was present in the hearing, as when asked to confirm the presence of the defendant, the president of the court decided to end the contact with the “Tenth of Ramadan – 6” Prison and said the lawyers would attend without contacting the prison. Also, AFTE’s lawyers could not make sure of the presence of six defendants in Case No. 1893 of 2022 (Supreme State Security), a defendant in Case No. 1539 of 2022 (Supreme State Security), and a defendant in Case No. 649 of 2020 (Supreme State Security) who is held at Badr 1 Prison.

These illegal practices prompted a number of lawyers to walk out in protest at the way the hearing was run, which constitutes a serious violation of the right of defense.

AFTE stresses that it is necessary for every lawyer to ensure that their clients are present during the hearing so they can hear the arguments presented on their behalf, and to see if they have anything else to add.

AFTE stresses the need to respect the international standards related to fair trial guarantees, calling on the judges of terrorism courts to abide by them.

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