Document - Egypt: Further update: Activist tried for ‘insulting the president’

URGENT ACTION

Further information on UA: 112/13 Index: MDE 12/024/2013 Egypt Date: 23 May 2013

Urgent Action

Activist tried for ‘insulting the President’

The trial of prisoner of conscience Ahmed Douma resumed on 13 May 2013. At the end of the hearing the presiding judge set 3 June as the date for the verdict to be delivered. If Ahmed Douma is found guilty of insulting Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi he will face up to two years in prison.

The hearing held on 13 May was the second for Ahmed Douma, who is on trial for insulting Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi on a television show. During the hearing, he told the court that he believed President Morsi to be responsible for the human rights violations that have happened under his rule.

Before the hearing began at Cairo’s Fifth Settlement district court, there were chaotic scenes as crowds of supporters, lawyers and opposition activists tried to get to the courtroom. Amnesty International delegates watching the trial saw police beating the crowd back with batons.

Ahmed Douma’s defence lawyers called on the court to respect freedom of expression, as well as the right of individuals to criticize their rulers.

Please write immediately in English, Arabic or your own language:

Calling on the authorities to release Ahmed Douma immediately and unconditionally as he is a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression;

Calling on them to investigate the arrest of Ahmed Douma, as neither he, his family nor his lawyer were notified of the decision to detain him, the exact charges against him or his place of detention; and

Calling on them to drop all charges against Ahmed Douma which relate to the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 3 JUNE 2013 TO:

Prosecutor General

Talaat Ibrahim Abdallah

Supreme Court House

No.1, 26 July Road, Cairo, Egypt

Fax: +202 2577 4716

Salutation: Dear Counsellor

And copies to:

​Deputy Assistant Minister of Foreign

Affairs for Human Rights

Her Excellency Mahy Hassan Abdel Latif

Human Rights and International

Humanitarian and Social Affairs

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Corniche al-Nil, Cairo, Egypt

Fax: +202 2574 9713 / +202 2576 7967

Email: Contact.Us@mfa.gov.eg

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country.

Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date. This is the first update of UA: 112/13. For further information see: http://amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE12/021/2013/en

Urgent Action

Activist tried for ‘insulting the President’

Additional Information

Ahmed Douma was detained on 30 April 2013 in Tanta, in Egypt’s northern Gharbiya Governorate, after he went to respond to charges of “insulting the president” and “spreading rumours disturbing national security and harming public interest”. His case was brought to the Tanta Misdemeanours Court on 5 May, which postponed the trial to 13 May. The Ministry of Justice then transferred the case to Cairo.

The charges are based on a telephone call he made to a television programme on 25 February, in which he described President Mohamed Morsi as a “killer” for not stopping the killing of opposition protesters.

Since President Mohamed Morsi took office in June 2012, scores of people have been questioned by the Public Prosecutor after they publicly criticised the President, his government or the political groups to which his administration is linked. Some have faced arrest and trial. Amnesty International has also documented cases where opposition activists have faced politically motivated or ‘trumped-up’ charges, apparently to stop them from criticising the authorities.

Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the Egyptian authorities to decriminalize defamation. Egyptian law criminalizes insulting public officials or “divinely revealed” religions and Egypt’s Constitution does not allow “insults” to individuals or religious prophets.

In a landmark ruling issued in November 2008, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said that defamation, libel and slander should be dealt with by the Egyptian authorities under civil, not criminal, law. The body urged the Egyptian authorities to drop prison sentences for anyone facing such charges. The Group said that “The fundamental right to freedom of opinion and expression, which is the core basis of the human rights system, must prevail when it implies political criticism, even when this criticism is focused on the activities of some concrete persons who have assumed high political responsibilities.”

Name: Ahmed Douma

Gender m/f: m

Further information on UA: 112/13 Index: MDE 12/024/2013 Issue Date: 23 May 2013

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