Egyptian lawyer Mohamed El-Baqer receives presidential pardon
Lawyers for Lawyers welcomes the news that Mohammed El-Baqer, an Egyptian human rights defender and lawyer and Director of Adalah Centre for Rights and Freedoms, received a presidential pardon on 19 July 2023 in criminal case 1228 of 2021. Mr. El-Baqer has been detained since 2019 and was serving a prison sentence for “spreading false news” and “belonging to a terrorist group”. Vague and unfounded charges that have been broadly used to criminalise dissenting voices in Egypt.
On 29 September 2019 Mr. El-Baqer was performing his duties as a human rights lawyer at the State Security Prosecution premises in Cairo representing blogger and activist Alaa Abdel Fattah—who had been arbitrarily arrested earlier that day—when he was himself arrested. Prosecutors brought new charges to hold him even after his pretrial detention hit the two-year legal limit, though a criminal court recommended he be freed in 2020, a practice known as ‘rotation’. When Mr. El-Baqer was eventually brought to trial, his access to defense lawyers was limited, and he was sentenced in December 2021 to four years in prison. For much of his time behind bars, his legal defenders have said, he was held in near-solitary confinement and repeatedly threatened and mistreated. Mr. El-Baqer was sentenced in emergency security courts. Egypt’s use of such courts has been criticized because their verdicts cannot be appealed, only annulled or modified by the president.
For years, the Egyptian authorities ignored international calls for the release of all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in Egypt, including public statements by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and two European Parliament resolutions on the situation of human rights defenders in Egypt. Lawyers for Lawyers hopes that the presidential pardon of Mr. El-Baqer will be a first step in the release of all human rights lawyers arbitrarily detained in Egypt.
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