The Cairo Criminal Court released on Monday political activist Alaa Abdel Fattah and two other defendants on a 5000 Egyptian pound bail each pending their retrial for violating last year’s protest law.
The judge overseeing the case announced stepping down, citing “disrespect”.
Abdel Fattah and the 24 other defendants were sentenced to 15 years in prison in June for illegal assembly, among other charges.
The retrial was taking place amid the detention of three defendants arrested after the issuance of the initial verdict; Abdel Fattah, Mohamed Nouby and Wael Metwalli.
The judge recused himself from the trial due to an incident which occurred during the trial’s last session on Wednesday, said Mohamed Abdel Aziz, director of the Cairo-based al-Haqanya human rights centre and one of the lawyers representing the defendants.
The court was watching videos presented by the prosecution as evidence in the case when the prosecution played a “personal” video for Abdel Fattah’s family, said Mahmoud Belal, among the defence team. The video was taken from the laptop of Abdel Fattah’s wife, confiscated during his arrest in November.
“The police and the prosecution illegally obtained the video,” Belal had told Aswat Masriya. He added that the security authorities which carried out Abdel Fattah’s arrest order did not possess a permit from the prosecution to search the defendant’s house or confiscate any of his assets.
The court referred the video to the prosecutor general to investigate it for violating Abdel Fattah’s privacy, as per the new constitution, Abdel Aziz said.
“We are proceeding with paying the bail,” Abdel Aziz told Aswat Masriya. He added that the defendants are expected to be released tomorrow.
Abdel Fattah was arrested from his home in November last year for illegal assembly, blocking roads, attacking a police officer and stealing his radio. The other defendants were arrested after the authorities dispersed a demonstration denouncing a constitutional article which permits military trials for civilians outside the Shura Council on November 26.
Though released in March, Abdel Fattah was sent back to jail on June 11 after the court sentenced him and the other defendants to 15 years in absentia for the same charge.
The 25 defendants were initially charged with protesting without permit, attacking and resisting the authorities among other crimes.
Abdel Fattah and Nouby had announced going on hunger strike to protest their detention. Their decision sparked a larger hunger strike campaign, gaining momentum by the day.
The Freedom for the Brave, a movement calling for the release of those detained pending politically-motivated charges, says over 200 have gone on hunger strike inside and outside prisons. Hunger strikers are calling for the release of those detained due to the protest law and for the law’s repeal.
Former interim President Adli Mansour issued the protest law on November 24 to regulate peaceful assembly. The law has long been the epicentre of wide criticism by domestic and international human rights organisations which say it violates international standards for peaceful protests.
The legislation obliges demonstrators to inform the authorities of their intention to assemble three days prior to their scheduled events. It also gives the interior ministry the right to cancel, postpone or move protests.
An Egyptian rights group filed on Saturday a lawsuit at Egypt’s top court, the Supreme Constitutional Court, challenging the constitutionality of the protest law.