Socialist Worker

Activists' anger and defiance at state repression in Egypt

by Judith Orr
Issue No. 2410

Mahienour el-Massry at her hearing, wearing compulsory prison robes

Mahienour el-Massry at her hearing, wearing compulsory prison robes


The 23 defendants on trial in Cairo for marching against the protest law were defiant at their court hearings  last weekend.

Along with supporters they chanted, “It is our right to protest, no to your law,” and sang revolutionary songs in the court. 

The demo they were arrested on had been attacked by police and 24 were arrested. One was released on health grounds. 

Families and supporters had been barred from the hearing after it was moved without warning from the court at Heliopolis to a police institute. This made it difficult for many to attend.

After the judge called a break for deliberation he left the building without informing the court of his decision.

Police guards were left to tell the activists they were not to be released and would face three months in jail until their case reconvened in September.

Charges

The 23 include Sana Seif, sister of jailed blogger Alaa Abdel-Fattah, who himself is serving a 15-year prison sentence on similar charges.

Also at the weekend, the appeal hearing for Revolutionary Socialist and human rights lawyer Mahienour el-Massry took place in Alexandria. 

Mahienour’s case has gained a high profile because of her long history of activism. She was jailed under dictator Hosni Mubarak and every regime since he was toppled.

In recognition of her activism she was awarded the Ludovic Trarieux Human Rights Prize last week. This is given annually to a lawyer for defending human rights. 

Nelson Mandela was the first to receive the prize while in prison in 1985. Mahienour has already served 40 days of the two-year sentence she was given for protesting outside the hearing of the police murderers of political blogger Khaled Said.

Revolutionary Socialist Taher Muktar was in her hearing and told Socialist Worker, “The courtroom was filled to double its capacity with lawyers and political activists showing solidarity with Mahienour.”

When Mahienour was brought into the court cage wearing the compulsory prison clothing of a long white gown the court erupted in clapping and shouting. 

“Mahienour was very strong and solid,” said Taher. “She told us she is OK and that we shouldn’t worry about her, saying the regime of Sisi will fall sooner or later.”

The crowded courtroom overheated as a power cut left it with no fans or air conditioning, yet the judge wouldn’t allow the defence lawyers a break.

Idea

“When the judge finally announced that his verdict would be postponed until 20 July Mahienour shouted, ‘Revolution, revolution till victory’ and ‘prison never changed an idea, repression never delayed tomorrow, revolution in all streets of Egypt, protesting is our right and no to your law!’ 

“We all responded repeating her chants as security guards took her away.”

Hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters are also waiting for appeal dates against death sentences for charges connected with protests after the fall of President Mohammed Mursi a year ago. After the law banning protests the Labour Ministry now want a one-year ban on strikes, starting with Alexandria. 

Independent union organiser Fatma Ramadan denounced the threat saying, “The authorities are calling on workers to give up their only tool of resistance, their only weapon—the right to strike— while offering practically nothing in return.” 

International solidarity is vital to demand the freeing of all detainees and an end to criminalising protest. For more information on activity go to egyptsolidarityinitiative.org 
Egyptian activists will be speaking on their struggle at Marxism 2014. marxismfestival.org.uk

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