Egyptian court orders release of T-shirt detainee

2016-03-24 20:20
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Cairo - An Egyptian court on Thursday ordered the release of Mahmoud Mohammed Ahmed, a 20-year-old Egyptian who was arrested for wearing a T-shirt with a slogan against torture, his brother and lawyer told The Associated Press.

Ahmed was 18 when he was arrested on January 25  2014, the third anniversary of the uprising that toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak. The day was marred by deadly street clashes between police and protesters.

He was accused by police of taking part in unauthorised demonstrations, possession of explosives and paying money to others to take part in street protests. He was never formally charged during his two years in detention.

Thursday's court ruling, which cannot be appealed, upheld a release order issued by another tribunal earlier this week, but which was appealed by the prosecution. His bail was set at 2 000 Egyptian pounds (about $220).

When arrested, Ahmed was wearing a T-shirt that bore the slogan "A nation without torture," something that helped turn his case into a cause celebre by Egyptian rights activists campaigning for an end to random detentions and torture by police. He also wore a scarf bearing the date the 2011 revolt began: January 25.

It was not immediately clear when Ahmed would be released, but it routinely takes hours or even days for police to implement court release orders. "The ball is now in the court of the Interior Ministry," his brother, Tarek Mohammed Ahmed, said. The ministry runs the police and prisons.

Tortured

Both his brother and the lawyer have maintained that Ahmed was tortured in detention and deprived of many of his rights. Ahmed had a leg operation in 2010 to remedy a condition that arose from a bad fall dating back to his childhood. The condition of the operated-on leg deteriorated while he was in detention because of a lack of adequate medical attention, according to the brother and lawyer, Mukhtar Munir.

On Thursday, Ahmed appeared in court using a cane to support him.

Ahmed is an activist who took part in the 2014 street protests that marked the third anniversary of the anti-Mubarak uprising. He was arrested at a police checkpoint on the outskirts of Cairo as he was making his way to his home north of the capital.

His detention is part of the harsh crackdown overseen by President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi since, as military chief, he led the ouster in July 2013 of Egypt's first freely elected president, the Islamist Mohammed Morsi, following mass protests against his divisive, one-year rule. The crackdown has primarily targeted Morsi's supporters and other Islamists but secular, pro-democracy activists have not been spared.

Ahmed's case attracted the attention of rights groups at home and abroad, mostly because of his young age and the circumstances of his arrest.

Amnesty International in January said his detention was an "utter disgrace" and an "affront to justice".

"No one should be arrested or detained simply because of slogans on the T-Shirt or scarf they have chosen to wear, let alone imprisoned for two years and facing torture and other ill-treatment in detention," Said Boumedouha, Amnesty's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, wrote in the January statement.

El-Sisi, in office for nearly two years, has maintained that he faces a tough balancing act when it comes to balancing stability with individual rights and freedoms.

"I am responsible for 90 million people and I am careful to strike a balance between the nation's security and stability on the one hand and safeguarding rights and freedoms on the other," he was quoted as saying by the Egyptian media on Wednesday.

Read more on:    egypt

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