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Egypt's kangaroo courts

The Egyptian legal system is characterized, increasingly since Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's election victory, by unfair sentencing whereby judges prevent defendants to attend their court hearings and sentence "in absentia."
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Last week, Wael Metwally, my new business partner, texted at 11 a.m., saying, “Apparently I have been sentenced to 15 years in absentia despite being in attendance in court,” before being promptly arrested in the court room for violating his “in absentia” verdict and thrown in prison, alongside Alaa Abd El Fattah and Nubi, fellow suspects of violating the “protest law” in what is known as the “Shura Council” case. It is worth noting that Metwally was not protesting that day and was simply a bystander at a respectable distance, and yet he was arrested and is now sentenced to 15 years in prison. It is also worth noting that the sentencing happened before the defense even started to present its witnesses, which was supposed to happen the day of the verdict. The judge simply started early and prevented the lawyers and suspects from entering the room. He then stated that given their absence, the trial is over, and he issued a sentence. Metwally was the only one who managed to get inside the court room, and when he pointed out his presence, the judge was startled, gathered his papers and ran off. Metwally was immediately detained.

The shenanigans in this case are nothing compared to the Al Jazeera trial. Burea chief Mohamed Fahmy, producer Baher Mohamed and ex-BBC reporter Peter Greste have been dealing with months of imprisonment in a case so poorly fabricated that it should have been thrown out of court months ago. They are accused of being a secret Muslim Brotherhood cell and supporting “terrorist” activities with their reporting. Evidence against them so far included an animal documentary, hard drives filled with pictures of Greste’s parents and unintelligible audio recordings. Besides refusing to release them on bail despite the lack of evidence, the judge in this case has also decreed that for the defense to access and view the “evidence” of the prosecution, they should pay the prosecution $180,000.

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