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Aya Hegazy case spotlights Egypt's pretrial detention law

Human rights activists welcome a proposed limitation on pretrial detentions in Egypt, but some remain skeptical that the amendment would make a real difference on the ground.
Aya Hijazi and her husband Mohamed Hassanein, founders of a non-governmental organisation that looks after street children, talk inside a holding cell as they face trial on charges of human trafficking, sexual exploitation of minors, and using children in protests, at a courthouse in Cairo, Egypt March 23, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany - RTX32DVC

The Egyptian parliament is currently drafting a bill to amend a provision of the country's criminal code that allows for a pretrial detention of up to two years. The proposed draft law would put a six-month ceiling on pretrial detention, slashing the current legal limit to a quarter of the period permitted by the current law.

Public debate on what rights activists say is a much-needed amendment was sparked by the acquittal in mid-April of dual US-Egyptian citizen and founder of the Belady Foundation Aya Hegazy, her husband Mohamed Hassanein and six co-defendants in the notorious Belady Foundation case. They spent three years in pretrial detention after their arrest on May 1, 2014, in a police raid on their nongovernmental organization, which provided shelter and services for Cairo’s street children. They were charged with operating an unlicensed organization, human trafficking, sexual exploitation of children and inciting anti-government protests.

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