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Egypt uses law ‘repealed 89 years ago’ for mass trials: NGO

Egypt’s 1914 Assembly Law was 'incontrovertibly repealed' in 1928 according to a report by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights
Egypt was still under British occupation, which started in 1882, when the law was passed (AFP)

Egypt is using a law that was repealed 89 years ago to prosecute Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa and 493 others on charges that could carry the death penalty, according to a human rights NGO.

“Egypt’s 1914 Assembly Law has been cited by the authorities as a key part of the legal basis for the ongoing trial of 494 people, who face the death penalty on charges relating to protests,” a statement by Reprieve said on Wednesday.

“They include Ibrahim Halawa, from Dublin, who was a juvenile at the time of his arrest,” the statement said, adding that “Ibrahim and his co-defendants have reported being regularly tortured in pre-trial detention.”

Egypt was still under British occupation, which started in 1882, when the law was passed.

However, a report by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights published this week found that the law was “incontrovertibly repealed” in 1928.

“This report sheds new light on some of the most appalling abuses of Egypt’s justice system,” said Harriet McCulloch.

“In Ibrahim’s case, the authorities are detaining 494 people, regularly torturing them, and threatening them with the death penalty – all on the basis of a protest law that shouldn’t even be on the statute books anymore,” she said.

Irish citizen facing 1,000th day behind bars after protests in Egypt

“The Irish government and others, including the UK, must raise this urgently with the Egyptian authorities, and call for Ibrahim Halawa and his co-defendants to be released without delay,” she added. Reprieve is assisting 21-year-old Ibrahim.

Egyptian authorities are using an administrative loophole to continue using the law, according to the rights group.

“The discovery undermines the basis of the mass trial of Ibrahim and 493 others, which has been ongoing since 2013,” Reprieve said in their statement.

“The prosecution has relied on the provisions of the law to argue that the 494 should be sentenced to death on nearly identical charges,” they added.

Egypt’s mass trials have resulted in thousands of death sentences being handed down since former defence minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi toppled Egypt’s first democratically-elected president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

The trials have been condemned by the international community. The next hearing for Ibrahim and his 493 co-defendants is due to take place on 14 February.