ELW Statement – The ELW Network condemns the recently renewed detention of Egyptian labour lawyer, Haitham Mohamedein

Mr Mohamedein’s professional practice is focussed on two key areas: representing victims of state violence in court on behalf of El Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, Egypt’s leading anti-torture NGO, and representing labour activists in criminal and civil matters. In his work for El Nadeem he has frequently acted for defendants in criminal trials on charges based on information extracted under torture. His labour practice, including much work pro bono, has involved representing labour activists arrested during violent repression of strikes both in police stations and in court. He has also represented labour activists facing sanctions in civil courts as a result of their union activities. Under current Egyptian law, serious disciplinary sanctions such as dismissal or suspension for public sector employees can only be decided in the Administrative Courts.

Mr Mohamedein has also provided legal advice to numerous groups of workers about compliance with processes for legal registration of independent unions, notably following the 2011 adoption of a legal mechanism for independent unions to register officially with the authorities. Notable groups of workers who have benefited from his legal assistance include independent trade unionists in the Cairo Public Transport Authority, healthworkers, steel workers and railway workers.

Following his arrest without a warrant in the early hours of 22 April, Mr Mohamedein was detained in El-Saf police station, before being transferred to a Central Security Forces camp. The following information has been reported Amnesty International:

“He was blindfolded during interrogation by the officers, and presented to the public prosecutor after more than 24 hours from the time of his arrest, against Egypt’s Constitution, one of his lawyers told Amnesty International. The prosecutor ordered his detention for 15 days on charges of “joining the banned Muslim Brotherhood”, “planning to overthrow the regime” and “calling for protests against the redrawing of the maritime borders of the country”, according to the his lawyer. He is being held in a Central Security Forces camp, called Kilo 10.5, on the Cairo-Alexandria desert road.” https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/04/egypt-mass-arrests-in-ruthlessly-efficient-bid-to-block-peaceful-protest/

On 5 May Mr Mohamedein’s detention was again renewed for 15 days on the order of the “Emergency Events” (terrorism) court.  The next hearing is on 18 May but the latest information from his lawyers is that they have had no access to the minutes of the previous hearing nor to the case file. The charges are vague and include joining a terrorist organization, without naming the organisation, calling for protests to the effect of disrupting public order and denouncing the recent Government policy on the deal regarding the transfer of two Egyptian islands to Saudi Arabia.

Mr Mohamedein was held at the Giza central prison which is a section of the central security camp on the Cairo Alexandria desert road. The conditions of detention are very poor with overcrowding and limitation of visits.  In his last questioning by the prosecution, Mr Mohamedein’s lawyers were misinformed regarding where he would be questioned.  He was transferred to the Safa police station and the lawyers were told that it was the Saf prosecution team that would question him the following day. El Saf is a long distance from Giza (2 hours by car) and, when Mr Mohamedein’s lawyers were just about to arrive there, he was again transferred to Giza and the lawyers had to return to attend his hearing without the opportunity to obtain proper instructions.

In light of the above circumstances, the ELW Network calls for the immediate release of Haitham Mohamedein at his hearing on 18 May and for the Egyptian authorities to follow due process in what appears to be a politically motivated arrest of a labour lawyer for carrying out his professional duties.  It appears from the circumstances of his arrest and continued detention that the Egyptian Government is failing to respect Article 54 of the 2014 Constitution and, accordingly, Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as Art. 16 of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers. ELW offers its solidarity to the Egyptian workers in their fight for trade union rights and justice under the present Egyptian regime.

Admin ELWELW Statement – The ELW Network condemns the recently renewed detention of Egyptian labour lawyer, Haitham Mohamedein