Filmed confessions of Brotherhood members stir controversy

Rights lawyers are demanding Egypt’s Ministry of Interior to be held liable after releasing videos of suspects involved in an alleged Muslim Brotherhood plan to undermine the state’s security.

al-monitor Egyptian Judge Mohamed Shirin Fahmi (C) reads out a verdict and sentence as he presides over the retrial of members of the Muslim Brotherhood on charges of espionage with the Palestinian group Hamas at the Tora courthouse complex in southeastern Cairo, Egypt, Sept. 11, 2019. Photo by KHALED KAMEL/AFP via Getty Images.

Jul 31, 2020

CAIRO — The Egyptian Ministry of Interior announced July 23 that it has “arrested a Muslim Brotherhood cell in Alexandria governorate, around 200 kilometers (124 miles) to the north of Cairo. The cell was spreading lies and rumors about the Egyptian regime, with the Egyptian Senate elections just around the corner, in August.”

Al-Monitor received a copy of the Ministry of Interior’s statement, which stated, “The National Security Agency [formerly the State Security] received information showing that several Muslim Brotherhood leaders who fled Egypt gave orders to Brotherhood members in Egypt to implement a Brotherhood plan.”

It continued, “The plan included spreading rumors and hubbub among citizens coinciding with the upcoming [Senate] elections by producing fabricated reports and media programs that include false information about the internal situation and the political leadership.”

On July 4, the National Elections Commission announced the date of holding the Senate elections on Aug. 11-12, six years after the dissolution of the Shura Council. The Ministry of Interior said in its statement that the Muslim Brotherhood cell wanted to spread rumors to target these elections.

Prominent Brotherhood leader and media figure Hamza Zawbaa, who resides in Turkey since 2013, was among those accused of funding and managing the cell. He had left Egypt after the fall of late President Mohammed Morsi, and he is the host of shows on the Brotherhood-affiliated Mekameleen channel that broadcasts from Turkey.

Al-Monitor tried to contact Zawbaa to talk about his accusation, but he could not be reached.

The Ministry of Interior posted videos showing the defendants making their confessions.

Rights’ attorney and former presidential candidate Khaled Ali told Al-Monitor via phone, “Posting photos and confessions of the accused persons violates the law and constitution.” He stressed the need to respect the secrecy of investigation and the importance of refraining from publishing or broadcasting any details related to the case.

Ali added, “The Ministry of Interior has no right to publish these confessions at all, because this is in violation of all customs and laws and infringes on the principle of a person being innocent until proven guilty. If a person is proven innocent of a charge after they are photographed and their identity is revealed, they would have faced defamation, which is in violation of the law.”

Article 75 of the Egyptian Criminal Procedure Code stipulates, “Investigation procedures and the results thereof shall be deemed classified and shall not be disclosed by the investigating magistrates, members of the Public Prosecution and assistants thereof including relevant clerks, experts and other persons having taken part in the investigation or having been present there as a result of the job or task thereof. Any person in violation of such shall be subject to punishment in accordance with Article 310 of the Penal Code.”

Article 187 of the Penal Code states, “The same penalties shall be inflicted on whoever publishes issues that are liable to influence the judges who are entrusted with deciding an action brought before any of the judicial authorities investigating a case.”

Another attorney who works at a rights’ center based in Cairo told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity for security concerns, “Several lawyers are looking into prosecuting the Ministry of Interior for publishing the confessions of accused people before the conclusion of investigations and for assuming they committed the crime.”

The attorney, who volunteered to defend the accused people in the case, added, “I suspect that they were tortured into confessing, especially as such confessions of receiving funding from the Muslim Brotherhood and attempting to spread rumors would implicate them and sentence them to long years in prison. Therefore, it is unlikely that they confessed voluntarily without torture or pressure.”

Brotherhood leader Mohammad Elhami, who resides in Turkey, denied the Brotherhood’s formation of a cell in Egypt. He told Al-Monitor via an online app, “The Egyptian Ministry of Interior is fabricating accusations to arrest the men and members of the Brotherhood in Egypt to delude Egyptians into thinking there is a conspiracy against the Egyptian state.”

He added, “The Egyptian security does not flinch in violating the law and publishing confessions of defendants who are still being investigated, and this is a major crime. The Egyptian regime is trying all it can to control everything and impose oppression and dictatorship, even if that means fabricating charges against citizens.”

The security media official at the Ministry of Interior refused to comment on the accusations of lawyers of violating the law by publishing confessions of the defendants while still under investigation. He only briefly told Al-Monitor over the phone, “There is no legal violation. Even if there was, the Egyptian judiciary will settle this controversy.”

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