|08CAIRO2527||2008-12-18 15:04:00||SECRET//NOFORN||Embassy Cairo|
1.(SBU) On December 15, a State Security Court, acting under
the authority of Egypt's decades old Emergency Law, convicted
22 people of crimes allegedly committed during violent
protests in April 2008 in the Nile Delta manufacturing center
of Mahalla al-Kobra (reftels). The court convicted the
protesters of a variety of crimes including assaulting police
officers, robbery and possession of unlicensed weapons.
Those convicted received prison sentences of three to five
years. According to local legal contacts, because the
sentences were handed down by a state security court, the
convictions may not be appealed, but those convicted can
petition the Public Prosecutor for reduced sentences.
Twenty-seven other defendants were acquitted.
2.(C) According to Karim Saber of the Land Center for Human
Rights, a workers' rights NGO that has been active in
Mahalla, the 22 convicted were neither organizers nor leaders
of the demonstrations, but ordinary workers caught up in the
violence. He said the sentences were harsh given the nature
of the charges, but added that a number of those convicted
had criminal records. Adel William Greis, another labor
rights activists, told us that all defendants with
backgrounds as political or labor activists were acquitted.
Both Saber and Williams are concerned that the Public
Prosecutor will bring additional charges against those
3.(C) According to media reports, before announcing the
verdicts, the judge presiding over the case made a statement
attributing the Mahalla violence to unnamed "international
forces." Saber and Greis told us that the judge's attempt to
link the violence - which began as a labor strike - to
"international forces" was especially noteworthy.
4.(S/NF) In August, DRL notified us that it was
contemplating providing legal defense funds to three of the
49 Mahalla defendants through the Global Human Rights
Defenders Fund. We reviewed a hand written list issued by the
court of those convicted and acquitted and found no reference
to the three; Essam Abed Al Raheem, Mohamed Abed Al Tawab
Guma, or Karim Ahmed Omar. We will review any subsequent
documents issued by the court to learn more about the fate of
those the USG sought to assist.