Prosecutors in Egypt are dragging bystanders who attempted to help dying activist Shaimaa el-Sabbagh before the courts on spurious charges, Amnesty International said in a statement on 2 April. Shaimaa was shot dead by the security forces on 24 January as she took part in a small, peaceful protest laying a wreath of flowers in Tahrir Square. Seventeen eyewitnesses who came forward to offer testimony against the security forces are now themselves facing trial on 4 April for “protesting without authorisation”, which carries a penalty of up to five years in prison.
Women’s human rights activist Azza Soliman is among those charged although she was sitting in a cafe during the events and not part of the protest. Maher Shaker, a doctor, rushed to give first aid when Shaimaa was carried into the cafe where he was sitting. After testifying against the security forces he was arrested and also charged.
Scapegoating witnesses in such a manner is part of an attempt by the authorities to cover up yet another incident of excessive and lethal use of force by the security forces to crush peaceful protests in Egypt,” said Said Boumedouha, Acting Director of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.