The controversial “Rabaa Operations Room” case is to be retried after the Cairo Court of Cassation accepted appeals on verdicts issued against 38 defendants in the case.
In April, the Cairo Criminal Court, headed by Judge Nagy Shehata, sentenced 12 defendants to death and 26 to life in prison on charges of “spreading false news” and forming an operations room to direct the “terrorist” Muslim Brotherhood group in its defiance of the government during the Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in, thus spreading chaos in the country.
The case includes 14 journalists and media workers, 13 of whom received life sentences, while one received the death penalty.
These include board members of the Rassd news network Abdullah Al-Fakharany and Samhy Mostafa. Al-Fakharany was arrested on 25 August, 2013, 11 days after the dispersal of the Rabaa sit-in, and has since then been held in Istikbal Tora Prison.
Along with the two Rassd journalists, the head of Al-Aqsa channel Ahmed Sebai’ was arrested on 4 October, 2013, and was sentenced to life in prison.
Sebai’s lawyer, Osama Al-Sisi, told Daily News Egypt that the Cassation Court’s Prosecution accept the appeals for several reasons, including the fact that the Criminal Court relied solely on evidence from Homeland Security investigations, which nullifies the verdict.
Further reasons include the absence of evidence to prove charges, as the prosecution failed to present proof that the defendants falsified news reports and footage.
“Once the court releases the grounds for its judgment, the case file will be transferred to the Appeals Court, which in turn will assign it to a new circuit,” said Osama. “This is a procedural matter, which usually takes up to 60 days, and then a date is set for the first retrial session.”
Regarding Sebai’s case, the defence lawyer expressed confidence regarding his acquittal, saying that all the reasons given in the appeal are “proof of his innocence” as they already deny the charges against him.
Some of the defendants can be released pending trial, given that they have exceeded their pre-trial detention limit of two years, and are not detained on other charges. In Sebai’s case, his lawyer said that they would file a request to the court calling for his release, as he is not involved in any other cases.
“However, at least 25 other defendants in the case cannot be released as they are serving their sentences in other cases,” explained Al-Sisi.
Amongst the defendants in the case are the banned Muslim Brotherhood’s leader Mohamed Badie, Mahmoud Ghozlan, Salah Soltan and Omar Malek, all of whom had received death sentences.