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For Immediate Release

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Emergency Court Rulings on Mahalla Protests Entrench Abuses in Egypt, Charges Amnesty International


Amnesty International calls for the retrial by an ordinary court of 22 people sentenced today by an Emergency Court in Egypt for their involvement in the violent protests of Mahalla in April 2008.

"Those sentenced today are scapegoats used by the authorities to hide their inability to adequately handle the Mahalla protests and to cover up for their failure to investigate the killing of three people, including a 15-year-old boy," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy program director. The Emergency Supreme State Security Court (ESSSC), which was established under the emergency law, flouts basic guarantees for fair trial and denies defendants the right to appeal.

Monday's prison sentences, which ranged from three to five years, are the first to be pronounced by the ESSSC since Egypt renewed the state of emergency in May 2008 invoking the treats of terrorism and instability in the region.

Tariq Mohamed Abdel Hafiz Al Sawi, Ali Ali Amin Abu Omar, Ahmed Kamel Ahmed Mohamed Ismail, and Karim Ahmed Al Sayed Al Rifa'y, aged between 19 and 38, told the judges that they had been tortured by State Security investigations (SSI) officers to confess. However, the ESSSC has failed to order an independent investigation and used their confessions to sentence them to three years imprisonment.

The 22 people sentenced on Monday are among a group of 49 people tried for their alleged participation in the violent protests against the rise in the cost of living which took place on April 6 and 7 in the industrial city of Mahalla, north of Cairo. At least three people, including schoolboy Ahmed Ali Mabrouk, died after being shot by the security forces while dozens were wounded in what appears to be excessive use of force during the protests.

Amnesty International has been calling for an investigation into the killings by riot police of Ahmed Ali Mabrouk, as well as two men during the Mahalla protests. Such investigations have yet to take place.

The ESSSC in Tanta, north of Cairo, acquitted all 49 people of the charges of arson and unauthorized assembly "with the aim of disturbing public order and security," but sentenced 19 of them, mostly craftsmen in their twenties, to three years imprisonment on charges of theft. Ahmed El Sayed Al Dahan, a driver aged 24, and Mahmoud Abu Bakr El Shenawi, a carpenter aged 22, also received three years prison terms on charges of possession of firearms. Ahmed Abdel Raouf Hassanein, a 40-year-old unemployed man, was sentenced to five years for assault on police officers and possession of arms.

"We urge the Egyptian authorities to stop undermining the ordinary criminal justice system by using extraordinary emergency courts that entrench human rights abuses, including torture," said Sahraoui.

Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. Our supporters are outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world - so we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity. We have more than 2.2 million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries and regions and we coordinate this support to act for justice on a wide range of issues.