The Cairo Criminal Court’s Judge, Nagy Shehata, renewed on Monday the detention period for Mahmoud Mohamed Hussein for another 45 days.
This adds to the 578 days Hussein has already spent in pre-trial detention, according to the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), from which lawyer Mokhtar Mounir is handling the case.
Hussein, 19, also known as the “anti-torture T-shirt” teenager, is, according to the Arabic Network of Human Rights Information (ANHRI), the “youngest Arab prisoner of conscience”.
Hussein, along with a companion named Islam Talaat, who is the sole other defendant in the case, is facing charges of protesting on the third anniversary of the 25 January Revolution in 2014. They were arrested at a security checkpoint whilst on their way home, on the basis of the t-shirt Hussein was wearing, and a scarf on which “25 January Revolution” was printed.
In addition to having spent a considerable amount of time awaiting the trial’s commencement, Hussein’s detention has been continuously and automatically renewed, usually without him appearing before court.
“We arrived at the court and Hussein and his lawyers were present, but without appearing before a judge, they were informed the detention was to be renewed,” Hussein’s brother, Tarek, told Daily News Egypt after leaving court during a 16 June session.
There have been at least 22 court sessions to renew Hussein’s detention, none of which he has attended, before finally being brought to court Monday to stand before Shehata. In all the 22 times his case has been reviewed by the court, the Ministry of Interior said “security reasons were behind the inability to transfer prisoners to court”.
Hussein’s case has stirred international controversy, due to the long duration of his pre-trial detention. There have also been reports of his being subject to torture, electrocution, beating and other violations inside jail, as well as several unfulfilled promises by authorities to release young detainees.
International rights group Amnesty International has escalated a campaign in solidarity with Hussein, launching a petition urging Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to order his release.
Hussein’s case is similar to that of detained photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, also known as Shawkan, who has completed 740 days behind bars. Shawkan’s detention exceeds the legal pre-trial detention period, which under Egyptian law should be no longer than two years.
In May, ANHRI released a report titled “Pre-trial detention: The justifiable captivity”, which stated Hussein’s case is a relevant example of the police’s manipulation to become the entity controlling pre-trial detentions, ordinarily in the hands of prosecution authorities.
“The Ministry of Interior’s refusal to take him to court sessions obstructs the trial process, and violates all constitutional guarantees of defendants’ rights,” ANHRI argued. The NGO’s lawyer, Nayera El-Sayed, is part of Hussein’s defence team, which also includes rights lawyer Taher Abol Nasr from the Hisham Mubarak Law Center.