(Beirut) – A Cairo court’s decision on March 23, 2017 to postpone issuing its verdict in the case of Aya Hijazi and the Belady Foundation for Street Children casts a further shadow on the ability of Egypt’s judicial system to deliver justice in this bizarre case, Human Rights Watch said today. Hijazi and her co-defendants, including her husband, have been held in custody since their arrest in May 2014, well beyond the two-year limit for pretrial and provisional detention under Egyptian law, and the frequently postponed proceedings have been marked by serious fair trial violations. The court provided no reason for postponing its verdict.
Hijazi, an Egyptian-American, and her husband, Mohamed Hassanein, an Egyptian citizen, are co-founders of the Belady Foundation, which provided services for Cairo street children. Police raided the foundation on May 1, 2014, without a judicial warrant, confiscated laptops and other equipment, and detained Hijazi, Hassanein, and several others, including a woman who provided meals, an artist who shared the premises, and the children present. Authorities charged the adults with human trafficking, sexual exploitation of children, using children in anti-government protests, and operating an unlicensed organization.
“The case of Aya Hijazi and her co-defendants has been nothing less than a travesty of justice,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director for Human Rights Watch. “Defendants have been unable to meet privately with lawyers, hearings have been repeatedly adjourned for long periods, while the court has routinely rejected, without explanation, numerous requests for release on bail, resulting in what appears to amount to arbitrary detention.”