HRW calls for dropping of charges against rights lawyer for proposing anti-torture bil

Wednesday 08-06-2016 05:22 PM

Human rights lawyer Negad al-Borai. Photo from his Facebook account

CAIRO, June 7 (Aswat Masriya) – Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on Tuesday on Egyptian authorities to drop charges levelled against rights lawyer Negad al-Borai and at least two judges over their role in proposing an anti-torture bill in March 2015.

Borai heads a law firm called United Group, which has been functioning for over 70 years. The firm held workshops preparing the proposed law.

Most recently, Borai was summoned for interrogation on June 5, as authorities focused on his role in the anti-torture draft law as well as other activities and funding of his law firm, HRW said.

Borai is charged with establishing an unlicensed entity with the intent of inciting resistance to the authorities, implementing human rights activities without a license, receiving foreign funds without permission, and spreading false information for the purpose of harming public order, HRW added. 

Two judges are involved in the case including head of the Cairo Appeals Court Judge Hesham Raouf and deputy head of the Cassation Court Judge Assem Abd al-Gabbar.

According to HRW, both judges have not been charged with any offense yet.

Investigative Judge Abdel Shafy Othman was appointed by the justice minister to investigate the case.

Othman confronted Borai with the National Security officer’s depositions which stated that  Borai “received funds from foreign organisations to bring down the State and attract youth to establish political movements in order to turn public opinion against the State using methods of “non-violence”, said United Group on June 5. 

The charge of receiving foreign funds carries a potential life sentence as per an amendment to the penal code decreed by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in September 2014, HRW added.

“In today’s Egypt, not even members of the judiciary are safe and independent from the security-minded arms of the state,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East and North Africa director. “The authorities should be investigating those who torture, not those who are trying to improve Egypt’s laws and bring them in compliance with international norms.”

Over 600 torture cases have been documented throughout 2015 by Egypt's anti-torture El Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence.

Interior ministry has repeatedly denied allegations of torture in prisons. 

Egypt reopened the investigation into the NGO foreign funding case in which several prominent human rights lawyers have been implicated. 

The reopening of the case was criticized was local and international rights groups.  

The case dates back to 2011 and has brought heavy criticism to Egypt since it started with Egyptian authorities raiding several NGOs and launching an investigation into foreign funding received by NGOs. It later on simply came to be known as the NGO trial, in which 43 Egyptians and foreigners were convicted in 2013.

The last trial session was adjourned to July 17.

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