The Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales has welcomed today’s news that Egyptian-American charity founder Aya Hegazy has been released from prison after being acquitted of the charges against her, following almost three years of detention in Cairo.
Ms. Hegazy is the co-founder of the Belady Foundation for street children, along with her husband. They were arrested in May 2014 and have been imprisoned ever since.
The lengthy trial process was littered with postponements and unexplained delays, and was widely condemned by international observers (including BHRC) as violating international law. Despite Ms. Hegazy and seven co-defendants being acquitted of all charges on Sunday 16 April, they were only released from prison late on Thursday evening.
BHRC has worked with EuroMed Rights to provide international legal observers throughout Ms Hegazy’s trial. Our interim report highlights profound concerns around the length of Ms. Hegazy’s pre-trial detention (caused mainly by unexplained prosecutorial delays), a failure to grant bail, and a lack of prosecution evidence. All of these highlight wider systemic failings within Egypt’s justice system.
A final report covering the full trial process is forthcoming.
BHRC’s Vice-Chair Schona Jolly QC said:
“From her initial arrest, through her three years of unjustified detention, to her repeatedly delayed trial, Aya Hegazy’s case has raised serious concerns over Egypt’s faltering respect for fair trial rights and its dysfunctional justice system.
BHRC are delighted that Ms. Hegazy is now free to return to her family. However, the failings which allowed Ms Hegazy to remain in detention for so long remain, and will continue to affect others unless and until systemic changes are made.
BHRC are aware of many other defendants within the Egyptian criminal justice system who are subject to excessive and punitive pre-trial detention. We welcome proposed amendments to the law which would place shorter limits on the length of pre-trial detention and call on the Egyptian government to urgently address the serious underlying concerns which remain.”