One year has passed since human rights lawyer Yara Sallam and 22 others were arrested and detained, due to their participation in a peaceful protest near the Itihadeya Palace in Cairo.
Sanaa Seif, award-winning human rights defender and sister of jailed activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, is among those convicted in the same case.
On 26 October 2014, a Cairo Misdemeanour Court gave them a three-year prison sentence and a fine of EGP 100,000 each, as well as three-years of police probation after release. An appeals court later revised the sentence to two years. A challenge before the Cassation Court is currently pending.
Sallam and her colleagues were charged with the “destruction of property, exhibiting a show of force to intimidate passersby and endanger their lives, and participation in an assembly of more than five persons with the objective of threatening public peace”.
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) called on Sunday for their immediate and unconditional release; and demanded from the Egyptian authorities to “end their campaign to silence human rights defenders and all those suspected of opposing the military and the government through politically motivated prosecutions and trials”.
The ICJ promotes and protects human rights through the rule of law, and its MENA regional programme aims to protect human rights through advocacy work, trial observations and conferences.
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) commemorated Sallam’s arrest and detention on Sunday by publishing the ICJ’s press release, and stating that Sallam has been “imprisoned for a year for a 100-year-old charge”.
Several human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and EIPR, previously condemned the verdict against the 23 activists, and called for the repeal or amendment of the protest law.
The controversial protest law, Law 107/2013, was issued by interim president Adly Mansour. Since its enactment, the law has been heavily criticised by human rights groups for violating the constitutional right to freedom of assembly and expression.
The law’s constitutionality was contested in front of the Supreme Court earlier this year, after a lawsuit was filed by prominent lawyers Khaled Ali and Tarek Al-Awady. In June, eight political parties filed a petition to the Supreme Court requesting the expediting of the revision of the protest law.
Sallam, 29, was a lawyer, an activist, blogger, and an officer on transitional justice at EIPR. She first studied law at the Sorbonne in France and Cairo University in Egypt, and continued her studies in international human rights law at Notre Dame University. In March, Sallam was nominated for the Front Line Defenders award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk for 2015.
Security forces arrested Yara Sallam and 22 others on 21 June 2014 as they were demonstrating against the controversial Protest Law near the Presidential Palace. Sallam was arrested alongside her cousin whilst buying a bottle of water. The authorities released her cousin a few hours later, but held Sallam and referred her to the prosecutor after the police discovered that she worked with a human rights organisation.