Court Watch: Egypt’s Major Ongoing Trials

Egypt’s courts have become a flashpoint for major changes in the country’s political landscape. Between multiple charges brought against Islamists, including leading Muslim Brotherhood members among them ousted president Mohamed Morsi, and against secular activists, including leaders from the April 6 Movement, the judiciary has been at the forefront of Egypt’s post-Morsi roadmap. The following is a rundown of key dates in major ongoing court cases, with verdicts expected in many of them in April.

The Morsi Trials

Three final verdicts await ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in the next two months. Facing charges in six separate cases, the date has been set for the final in the presidential palaces case to April 21, while May 16 is the date for the final verdict in both the prison break case and the grand espionage case.

Presidential Palace Case:

September 2, 2013: Morsi, along with fourteen other Brotherhood members, were referred to trial on charges of inciting violence during clashes at the presidential palace in December 2012. Ten protesters were killed in the clashes sparked by a presidential decree issued by Morsi a month earlier. Defendants include Brotherhood leaders Saad al-Katatni, Mahmoud Ezzat, Safwat Hegazy and Essam al-Erian.

November 4, 2013: During the first session of trial, Morsi claimed he is still “the legitimate president of the country,’’ calling on the judiciary not to provide legitimacy to the coup. The trial was postponed to January 8, 2014.

February 4, 2014: The defense asked for add Mohamed ElBaradei, Hamdeen Sabbahy, and, Amr Moussa, to be added to the case.

October 13, 2014: After repeated adjournments, final arguments were heard during which the prosecution called for the death sentence for Morsi.

January 8, 2015: The court will issue its final verdict on April 21, 2015.

Prison Break Case:

December 23, 2013: Morsi, along with 131 other defendants, were referred to trial on charges of murder relating to a mass jail break in 2011. They are accused of storming Wadi al-Natrun prison and ten other prisons nationwide, attacking police stations, and kidnapping and killing policemen during the January 25 revolution in 2011. The defendants include members of Hamas and Hezbollah.

January 28, 2014: The first session was held, with twenty-one defendants present in a soundproof glass cage. The rest of the defendants are at large. Morsi appointed Selim al-Awa as a defense lawyer and the case was postponed to February 22 to allow security forces arrests other defendants who are still on the run.

February 25, 2015: The court will issue its final verdict on May 16, 2015.

“Grand Espionage” Case:

December 18, 2013: Morsi, together with thirty-five other defendants, were referred to trial on charges of leaking classified documents related to Egypt’s national security to foreign powers. They were also charged with aiding acts of terrorism. Of the thirty-five defendants, only twenty are detained, including Morsi, the Supreme Guide of the Brotherhood Mohamed Badie, Khairat al-Shater, Saad al-Katatni, Essam al-Erian, Mohamed al-Beltagy, Safwat Hegazy, Saad al-Hosseiny, and Hazem Mansour, and Morsi’s presidential advisors Essam al-Haddad,  and Mohie Hamed. AUC professor Emad Shahin is also among the defendants but left the country. Morsi has denied the charges, describing them as fabricated.

February 16, 2014: The first session of the trial began with Morsi and the other defendants present in a glass cage. As a result, the defense team withdrew in objection. The court adjourned the trial to February 23, appointing ten lawyers.

April 22, 2014: The court held a session to hear witness testimonies and examine evidence. The court postponed the trial to April 28, ordering a media gag on the case.

January 18, 2015: Morsi appears in court, and presented his own defense, saying he is the rightful leader of Egypt. In a two-hour speech, Morsi accused Sisi, without referring to him by name, of killing some of the protesters that died in the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak.  

January 31, 2015: The court will issue its final verdict on May 16, 2015.

Qatar Espionage Case:

September 6, 2014: Morsi and ten others were referred to trial on charges of leaking classified intelligence documents to Qatar through its news network, Al-Jazeera in exchange for $1 million.

February 15, 2015: Morsi, two aides, and eight co-defendants were present at the first session, which was postponed to February 28. Morsi was brought to the court unwillingly and objected to the trial saying, “”I came here and I do not know about this case.”

March 3, 2015: The court examined the video evidence and ordered a media gag on the trial.

April 1, 2015: After multiple adjournments, the trial was once again postponed to April 5, 2015.

Insulting the Judiciary Case:

January 19, 2014:  Morsi and twenty-four others were referred to court on charges related to insulting the judiciary. Morsi is accused of insulting the judiciary during a speech he gave in June 2013 while still president. In it, he claimed twenty-two judges of forging the 2005 parliamentary elections under Mubarak. He is also accused of meddling with the prosecutors’ work. His twenty-four co-defendants include former parliament speaker Saad al-Katatni, and the secretary-general of the Brotherhood’s political Freedom and Justice Party Mohamed al-Beltagy. Liberal activists and public figures like Amr Hamzawy, Mostafa al-Naggar, the currently-imprisoned Alaa Abdel Fattah, Abdel Halim Qandil, Abdel Rahman Yusuf al-Qaradawi, and Tawfik Okasha are also among the defendants.

March 25, 2015: The first session of the trial is set for May 23, 2015.

Nahda Project Case:

November 25, 2013: Morsi was notified of a lawsuit filed by Samir Sabry, a lawyer and now leading figure in the Tahya Masr (Long Live Egypt campaign), in which Sabry accused Morsi of fraud and deceiving Egyptian voters with his electoral platform, the “Nahda (Renaissance) Project.”

December 23, 2013: The court held its first session, but Morsi was not present for security reasons. The court said it lacked jurisdiction to issue a verdict in the trial, requesting the case first be referred to the prosecution to conduct investigations.

January 10, 2014: The court issued its reasoning for its lack of jurisdiction, citing that Morsi infringed upon the sovereignty and independence of the judiciary.

Ongoing Brotherhood Trials

Storming al-Arab Police Station Case:

January 14, 2014: The Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, along with 190 other defendants including Safwat Hegazy, Mohamed al-Beltagy and Akram al-Shaer, were referred to trial on charges of storming al-Arab police station in Port Said and helping prisoner escape and stealing police personnel weapons.

March 23, 2015: The trial was postponed to April 21 in order to hear the defense team’s final arguments and examine evidence related to the case.

Raba’a Operations Room Case:

February 3, 2014: Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat referred the Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie and fifty-one other co-defendants including twelve journalists, leading Brotherhood members, among them Salah Soltan. Soltan’s son Mohamed, an Egyptian-American is also among the defendants, and has been on hunger strike for over a year. They are charged with “forming an operations room to direct the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood group to defy the government during the Raba’a sit-in dispersal and to spread chaos in the country.”

April 1, 2014: The first session of the trial began with the defense lawyers withdrawing in protest of a defendant being told to “shut up.” The defense team also asked for another court and judge panel to look into the case, which was postponed to April 6. The trial resumed on June 17 but was postponed to June 23.

March 16, 2015: Fourteen defendants were handed down initial death sentences, including Brotherhood Supreme Guide Badie, Mahmoud Ghozlan, Saad al-Hossainy, Salah Soltan and other leading Brotherhood figures.

The court will announce its verdict for the other defendants, among them Mohamed Soltan, on April 11, 2015.

Mubarak-Era Trials

Zoheir Garana Profiteering Case:

March 6, 2011: The Prosecutor General of Egypt referred Zoheir Garana, the Mubarak-era tourism minister, to a Cairo criminal court over charges of corruption and embezzlement. He was pleaded guilty and a Giza court sentenced him to five years in prison.

February 13, 2013: The Cassation court accepted an appeal filed by Garana.

May 14, 2013: Gharana was released pending retrial. Garana will be retried on June 2, 2015 and the court will reconsider the verdict issued by the Giza criminal court sacking him from his position and sentencing him to five years in prison.

Ezz Steel Case:

September 15, 2011: Egyptian steel tycoon and a member of the now-defunct National Democratic party Ahmed Ezz was charged with acquiring free, illegal licenses to operate his steel factories with the help of both former Industrial Development Authority head, Amr Assal, and Minister of Trade and Industry Rachid Mohamed Rachid. Ezz and Assal were initially sentenced to ten years in prison and Rachid to fifteen years in absentia.  
August 7, 2014: Ahmed Ezz is released on a record-breaking 100 million Egyptian pounds bail, after the  Court of Cassation ordered his retrial.

March 3, 2015: The retrial was adjourned to May 5

Mubarak’s Trial of the Century:

November 29, 2014: The Cairo Criminal Court dropped charges against former President Hosni Mubarak related to the killing of protesters during January 2011 revolution. He was also acquitted of corruption and graft charges. Mubarak aide and former interior minister Habib al-Adly, and his sons Alaa and Gamal were also found innocent of charges they faced. A detailed breakdown and information about the whole case can be found here.

March 29, 2015: The Court of Cassation accepted an appeal on charges of killing protesters. The court accepted the appeal on the grounds that Mubarak’s acquittal was illegal. The court will look into the case on April 2

Terrorism Entities Trials

Hamas Terrorism Case:

March 1, 2015: An Egyptian court declared Hamas a terrorist group, calling for confiscating its assets and the arrest of its members in Egypt. Two lawsuits were filed by lawyers, Samir Sabry and Ashraf Farahat.
March 11, 2015: Egypt appealed the ruling and the court was scheduled to hold its first session on March 28 to reconsider the verdict. On March 27, Sabry withdrew the lawsuit, but the case has not been dropped because of Farahat’s lawsuit, who refused to drop the charges.

Turkey, Qatar, April 6, and Hamas Terrorism Case:

March 2, 2015: The court ordered retrial in the case calling for designating Turkey and Qatar as terrorist entities and first session date set to April 6, 2015.

March 8, 2015: The Cairo Court for Urgent Matters postponed the designation of the April 6 movement as a terrorist entity to April 20, 2015. The lawsuit was filed by Ashraf Farahat.

March 24, 2015: An Alexandrian courtreferred to the Prosecutor General several cases filed by Tahya Masr (Long Live Egypt) member Tarek Mahmoud, calling for Turkey, Hamas, the April 6 movement and National Alliance to Support Legitimacy (NASL) to be listed as terrorist entities.
Non-Islamist Trials

Cabinet Clashes Case:

February 4, 2015:  230 non-Islamist defendants, including leading activist Ahmed Douma, were sentenced to life in prison (25 years in Egypt) and were collectively fined EGP 17 million. Thirty-nine minors were also sentenced to ten years in jail.

Douma was the only defendant present in court, with the 229 other defendants sentenced to life in absentia over convictions of taking part in the deadly “Cabinet Clashes” between protesters and security forces. All defendants were convicted with charges of illegal assembly, possession of bladed weapons and Molotov cocktails, vandalism, and attacking the cabinet office headquarters and security personnel as well as burning the Scientific Compound in Cairo. Rights groups provided evidence refuting these accusations. Douma is already serving a three-year-sentence for breaking Egypt’s protest law, and for contempt of court.

Yasmin Hossam Eddin, one of the lawyers who boycotted the trial, said that they would appeal the verdict due to Douma’s lack of access to an appropriate independent defense.

March 3, 2015: The court held a hearing session for the retrial of sixteen defendants. The retrial date has been set for April 2 for fifteen defendants, with one a fifteen-year-old minor referred to a juvenile court. No date has been set for her retrial.

Al Jazeera Trial:

December 29, 2013: Three Al Jazeera English journalists Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy who later gave up his Egyptian citizenship, Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian Baher Mohamed were arrested on charges of aiding the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and spreading falsified news.

February 12: The court orders the defendants released and the case retried on the grounds that there was a lack of evidence proving alleged links to the Muslim Brotherhood. A completetimeline of the trial until February 12 can be found here.

March 25, 2015: The retrial was adjourned to April 22, with a committee formed to examine video evidence.

Ali Mohamed is an intern with the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

Image: Photo: Islamist defendants stand behind bars in in Cairo on June 23, 2014. (Reuters/Asmaa Waguih)