A story of a lawyer and a defendant in the State Security Prosecution

Introduction

In this paper, we will not address theoretical issues or speak that much.

This paper (testimony) details how laws and the Constitution deal with the Prosecution, lawyers and defendants, and what actually happens in practice.

This paper is an eyewitness testimony;

A lawyer defending his clients, usually before the State Security Prosecution.

The testimony is divided into specific sections:

  • What is the State Security Prosecution?
  • Lawyers’ rights and legal guarantees before the Prosecution
  • A Lawyer’s testimony of what is happening on the ground during his presence at the State Security Prosecution
  • The defendants’ legal and constitutional rights and what they actually might encounter during investigation
  • Conclusion and recommendations

First: What is the Supreme State Security Prosecution?

  • The State Security Prosecution is a special prosecution established by a decision of the Minister of Justice or the Public Prosecutor to investigate and deal with certain types of crimes.
  • The most important crimes that the Supreme State Security Prosecution has jurisdiction over:
  • Crimes (felonies) and misdemeanors that are detrimental to the security of the government domestically and outside the country.
  • Crimes involving explosives and bribery, misdemeanors concerning religion, and misdemeanors involving the press and other media outlets
  • Misdemeanors that are ordered to be referred to the Supreme State Security Courts by the President of the Republic in accordance with Law No. 162 of 1958 concerning the state of emergency.
  • Crimes that occur through the press and other publications, if the victim is a public official, or a person with a public parliamentary capacity (public representative), or is charged with a public service.
  • Labor strikes and inciting strikes, attacks on the right and liberty to work, and work stoppages in government agencies of public utility.
  • Crimes stipulated in Law No. 10 of 1914 regarding public gathering.
  • Some of the crimes of supply commodities, compulsory pricing and profits determination and the decisions implementing them, in case the penalty prescribed for these crimes is stricter than imprisonment.

Second: Lawyers’ rights and guarantees during investigations before the Prosecution

– Lawyers have the right to be treated with due respect by courts and all other entities they appear before

–   Lawyers should be allowed access to investigations until the day before the interrogation of their clients. They also should be informed with whether their clients were confronted by other defendants or witnesses; in order to be ultimately aware of and knowledgeable about what happened in the investigation, so that they could fulfill their duty to reach the truth sought by the society.

– It is not permissible to separate a defendant from his lawyer attending with him during the investigation

– The defendant may be left alone with his lawyer before the investigation without the presence of any of the public authority members or public officials.

– Although they ought to remain silent during investigations, lawyers have the right to monitor and check the impartiality of the investigation and make whatever statements, comments, requests and remarks on witnesses’ testimonies, in writing or orally.

– Lawyers have the right to visit their clients detained in prison.

Third: The actual reality experienced by lawyers

  • Entering the State Security Prosecution’s Office
  • When you arrive at the Prosecution’s headquarters, you will enter a small iron door- almost a meter- and then pass through an electronic gate, where you must undergo a manual body cavity search, before you leave your mobile phone and ID to the security man sitting on the door to get them back while leaving the place.
  • After you get in, you will be heading to the Prosecution’s hallway where you can find a low-ranking police officer sitting on a wooden office with a list of the defendants’ names. You can tell him the name of the defendant whom you came to attend the investigation with. If you don’t find your client in the list, then you must leave the Prosecution’s headquarters immediately. These are the directives!

 

  • List of things to avoid while attending with defendants
  • Checking the case papers is forbidden!

We are always informed that upon a directive from the State Security Prosecution’s Attorney General, lawyers are denied access to any papers related to the case in which he attends as a defense lawyer for the defendant.

  • Talking to your client is forbidden!

While standing in the Prosecution’s corridors awaiting an investigation or the consideration of a detention renewal, it is forbidden to speak with your client without prior permission of the Deputy Attorney General who is presiding over the investigation or your client’s detention renewal session.

  • Writing down notes during investigation is forbidden!

You weren’t allowed to check the case papers. Well, you might be able to find out the charges attributed to the defendant with whom you are attending the investigation; through writing down the questions and accusations and any other observations and notes you made during the investigation in order to be able to give your legal defense to your client, who is considered innocent until proven guilty. However, you are deprived of such an inherent right.

  • Getting to know the Prosecution’s decision on your client is forbidden!

After interrogating the defendant or considering his detention renewal, it is normal to ask about the decision issued by the Prosecution regarding your client’s case; rather, it’s your duty to do so. But in the State Security Prosecution, you are not informed with the decision except on the second day of the investigation or the detention renewal session. You might even hear the decision in the media!! But in all cases, you won’t know it except after the investigation is over.

  • Getting to know the date of your client’s next detention renewal session is forbidden!

You have to calculate days and dates carefully so that you can guess at what day your client may be present in the Prosecution for his detention renewal; that’s because they won’t tell you, or else they can provide you with a different date.

  • Appealing against pretrial detention decisions is forbidden!

To request submitting an appeal from any of the Public Prosecutor’s deputies, your request will probably be rejected, and they would reply: “There are the instructions/orders”. And if you head to the Attorney General, he would answer: “You can file an appeal. Has anyone prevented you from doing so?”, and if you actually do so, your request to file an appeal will be inevitably rejected.

  • Submitting a request to visit your client in his jail is forbidden!

If you ask ‘Why so?!’, the answer will be “Instructions” or “Submit your request and wait for someone to accept it”.

 

Fourth: The defendants’ rights during investigation and the actual reality they experience

As for the defendants’ suffering in the State Security Prosecution, it starts from the first moment they got arrested or appeared after being forcibly disappeared, as the case may be…

Let’s talk here from the first moment defendants appear inside the State Security Prosecution, which is supposed to be the entity that is keen most on protecting their rights and maintaining the integrity of the lawsuit.

  • Transferring defendants from their jail to the Prosecution’s headquarters
  • Defendants are always transferred from their jails or from police stations to the State Security Prosecution in the early morning. Then they are held in the Prosecution’s custody, a basement below the level of the ground under the building, where there is no ventilation nor toilets, nor life!
  • Defendants are remained there, inside this cell that is more like a grave, for nearly five hours (more or less), until they appear before the prosecutor in his lavish air-conditioned office, which often smells of incense or air freshener.
  • Defendants then are distributed among prosecutors, after the police officer (staying at the Prosecution’s hall) call their names and the turns they take to appear before the Prosecution.
  • Lawyers scramble up the stairs to catch up with their clients, and both of them will then need to wait for several hours until the prosecutor authorize the beginning of the detention renewal session. And after all these hours of waiting, the session doesn’t take more than two minutes. Only for two minutes of bureaucracy, a defendant may suffer a lot and is almost tortured.

 

  • Investigation
  • The Prosecution is supposed to ensure that the rights guaranteed by the constitution for detainees, such as the right to contact family or lawyer to inform them of the detention, are secured, and this doesn’t happen.
  • The right to be informed with the reasons behind his detention, which doesn’t happen.
  • The right to be brought before the investigating authority within 24 hours from the time he is deprived of his freedom
  • The investigation shall not begin unless in the presence of his lawyer. This usually doesn’t happen; as investigations often start directly and immediately, especially the first session which often becomes the first and last one because the rest of the sessions are merely detention renewal sessions without any investigation.

 

  • Pretrial detention
  • Pretrial detention is supposed to be a precautionary measure that is carried out with great restraint; since every accused person is legally presumed innocent until proven guilty. According to court judgments, most investigations and inquiries conducted by investigating officers tend to be nothing but a mere opinion of a person, or some baseless and unsubstantiated claims, on which to base a defendant’s pretrial detention or trial. Unfortunately, many of the defendants are detained, under no reason except the investigation records, and some of them are punished with protracted detention under no evidence or serious exhibitions, only the investigation records and inquiries.

 

  • Detention renewal
  • A defendant is subject to investigation once or twice at the latest. Then he swirls around the detention renewal cycle for a period of 150 days, the validity period of the defendant’s detention renewal within the State Security Prosecution.
  • During the 150-days, the detention of a defendant is renewed for every 15 days. When his turn comes and enters the office of the prosecutor in charge of considering his detention renewal, repeating the same question on him “Did you do such and such?” and pressing against him a list of accusations, the defendant answers with “No” in most cases. The following dialogue then takes place:

– (The defendant to the prosecutor: My detention has been kept in renewal for a long                     period of time. I have been interrogated only once and the interrogation hasn’t been completed yet nor have I been confronted with the one who wrote such investigation that brought me here.

– The prosecutor: I don’t know anything. I am here just to consider you detention renewal)

 

This is a semi-permanent and usual conversation between defendants and prosecutors in the prosecutions’ offices, and as a lawyer, I heard it a lot and even took part in it hundreds of times.

 

Fifth: Conclusion and recommendations

It is regrettable that the provisions of the law are being disrupted and the rights of both defense lawyers and suspects, guaranteed by the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Law along with the Constitution, are being wasted.

It is more regrettable that such provisions and rights are wasted by an entity that is, supposedly, entrusted with the implementation of the law “The Prosecution’s Office”.

The Public Prosecution is an entity that constitutes a representative of the Egyptian society in the valid implementation of the Penal Code’s provisions, and not an opponent or a litigant. It also shouldn’t deal with lawyers and defendants as an opponent or litigant.

It should be eager to implement the law and respect it.

Recommendations:

  1. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) recommends that the law be implemented within the Supreme State Security Prosecution during investigation or detention renewal sessions, and that lawyers be enabled to fulfill their work and duties under the guarantees granted to them by the law.
  2. The law shall be enforced within the Supreme State Security Prosecution during investigations with defendants and during their detention renewal sessions, without prejudice to any of the defendants’ rights prescribed by law.
  3. The Public Prosecution shall limit the expansion of the use of pre-trial detention and shall be legally justified.
  4. The Public Prosecutor shall provide a model for the respect of court orders; by allowing lawyers to enter the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the State Security Prosecution without any obstacles or difficulties, as long as they perform their legal work and duty.
  5. The Lawyers’ Syndicate has to make a serious effort to support its members and to stand against the violations they are subjected to, especially inside the corridors and offices of the State Security Prosecution and the Public Prosecutor’s Office, and of course to punish those who committed any mistakes

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