Appeals Court upholds conviction of Alexandrian political activist

A misdemeanor appeal court today upheld an earlier verdict that convicted a political activist of assaulting and libeling a policeman, but reduced the prison sentence from six months to one month.

“My case is fabricated from start to finish. This verdict is not issued by the judiciary but by police authorities,” Hassan Mustafa, the convict, told Al-Masry Al-Youm in a phone interview from the Mediterranean city of Alexandria where the trial was held.

Mustafa was first arrested in mid-June on grounds of beating and defaming lieutenant colonel Khaled Mohsen in Alexandria.  A couple of days later, the court sentenced him to six months in prison and ordered a fine of LE2000 Egyptian Pounds. Eventually, the 28-year-old activist appealed the verdict, contending that the allegations were fabricated.

Earlier, Mustafa had filed a compliant against another policeman for beating, and dragging him on the ground during a demonstration protesting the notorious murder of Khaled Saeed. Mustafa was on his way to undergo forensic examination when policeman Mohsen intercepted him and leveled accusations against him, according to Mustafa’s lawyers.

“Authorities are sharpening their teeth and using all dishonest means to deter and terrorize political activists,” said Mustafa, who is an active member of  the Popular Democratic Movement for Change (PDMC)–a nascent opposition group that voices socio-economic grievances and denounces the regime of President Hosni Mubarak.

“By virtue of this verdict, the police can chase me or raid my house to take me to jail,” added Mustafa, who was released on bail last summer.

At press time, Mustafa had decided to pre-empt any attempt to stop him, by turning himself in to the police station. “I will not give [the police] the chance to use this verdict to come to my house and terrify my parents. In the meantime, I am not a criminal to let them chase me,” Mustafa told Al-Masry Al-Youm.

The Court of Cassation, which is Egypt’s supreme court of appeal, is Mustafa’s last resort. Yet, even a new appeal might not be resolved soon enough to keep him free, according to lawyers.

“Practically, it will be hard for him to evade jail because by the time the appeal is accepted, Mustafa will have already spent his one-month sentence,” said Haitham Mahamadeen, a lawyer from the Nadim Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, which had delegated attorneys to defend Mustafa.

Legally, Mustafa’s lawyers have the right to submit a petition to the General Prosecutor requesting a suspension of the sentence until the new appeal is resolved on grounds that the convict has a clean record, said Mohamadeen. But the chances that the general prosecutor accepts this petiton are slim, he added.

"The General Prosecutor will refuse it for political reasons, because the case involves a policeman," said Mohamadeen.

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