CAIRO, Jan 5 (Aswat Masriya) – The defense of hunger striking detainee Mohamed Soltan called on the judge overseeing the trial to recuse himself on Monday, yet the request was turned down.
Soltan was arrested from his home on August 27, 2013 after the deadly dispersal of two camps set up in support of former President Mohamed Mursi following his ouster in July 2013. He has been on hunger strike since last January in protest over his detention, maintaining the longest hunger strike among those detained.
Mohamed Nagi Shehata, the judge overseeing the trial, has been accused of bias against the Muslim Brotherhood and the January 2011 uprising which toppled President Hosni Mubarak’s regime, after opinionated posts on his facebook account went viral in December.
Soltan's defense said Shehata has given press statements to a satellite channel and an independent newspaper which reflected political bias regarding the Muslim Brotherhood and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Shehata turned down the defence's request, postponing the trial to January 11. All the defendants, including Soltan, are to remain in jail pending the trial.
The defense is studying with the defendants filing a request to refer the case to a different bench.
The judge sentenced on Monday another defendant in the case, Youssef Talaat, to three years' labour and a 10 thousand Egyptian pound fine for "insulting a police officer tasked with securing the court."
Shehata is also overseeing the trial of political activist Ahmed Douma and 268 others accused of taking part in the 2011 "cabinet clashes".
Shehata sentenced Douma to three years in prison for insulting the court in December and referred to the prosecution Khaled Ali, former presidential candidate and one of Douma's lawyers, for a similar charge in November. He had repeatedly turned down the defense team's requests calling on him to recuse himself from the trial or refer it to a different bench.
Among Shehata's most notorious verdicts is the one where he sentenced three journalists from the Qatari news network al-Jazeera to seven to 10 years in prison for charges including spreading false news last June.
Egypt's Court of Cassation ordered a retrial for the journalists on Thursday due to "legal errors" in the sentence, one of the journalists' lawyers said.
Egyptian-American national Soltan has been on hunger strike for nearly a year; his life is believed to be in danger. He is the son of jailed Muslim Brotherhood leading figure Salah Soltan.
Soltan is being tried alongside his father, the Muslim Brotherhood's Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie and 48 others for managing an "operations room" following the dispersal of the two pro-Mursi camps in August 2013. The defendants are accused of using the operations room to "resist the state and spread chaos."
Muslim Brotherhood leaders and supporters have often found themselves behind bars and facing courts since the ouster of Brotherhood members and former President Mursi in July 2013. A court in Minya has served over 1000 Brotherhood supporters preliminary death sentences last March and April.
The Brotherhood itself was listed as a terrorist organisation in December 2013.