Yara Sallam completes first year in prison

Yara Sallam completes first year in prison
The Egyptian human rights defender has now served half of her two-year prison sentence for protesting against her country's anti-protest law.
2 min read
22 June, 2015
Yara Sallam has been in prison for a year [al-Araby]

Saturday marked one year since the award-winning human rights defender, Yara Sallam, was arrested in Cairo - along with more than 20 others - for violating Egypt's anti-protest law.

Sallam was the transitional justice officer at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights [EIPR], a Cairo-based NGO dedicated to protecting basic human rights and freedoms in Egypt.

On 21 June 2014, hundreds of people gathered peacefully in front of the Ittihadiyah Presidential Palace in Cairo's upscale Heliopolis neighbourhood to demonstrate against the anti-protest law, which had given the government sweeping powers to approve or ban protests, as well as to arrest and prosecute any violators.

Protesters demanded the abolition of the law, and the release of prisoners who had been arrested on charges of violating it.

     All those convicted today were either targeted solely for exercising their right to freedom of assembly or were bystanders picked-up randomly.

Plain-clothes units attacked the protesters, while uniformed police forces fired teargas at them.

Sallam was arrested along with dozens of other protesters, some of whom were released the same day. Sallam and the remainder were charged with violating the anti-protest law, obstructing the law and damaging public property.

In October 2014, the detainees were sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of 10,000 Egyptian pounds ($1,300). The sentence was later reduced to two years in prison and two years parole.

"EIPR fears that all those convicted today were either targeted solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly or were bystanders picked-up randomly in the vicinity of the dispersed protest," EIPR said in a statement following the verdict.

Last week, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi pardoned 165 prisoners convicted of violating the anti-protest law, mostly "low-level" protesters with little experience of organising. Sallam was not among them.

"Yara did not commit any crime to be pardoned, she and her fellow protesters are free people who deserve to be acquitted," Sallam's mother, Rawia Sadek, wrote on her Facebook page last week, commenting on the presidential decree.

"If someone wants to solve the problem, they should abolish the thuggery and protest laws, as well as expedite the appeal process so the protesters can be retried properly," Sadek added.

In 2013, Sallam was awarded the North African Human Rights Defender Shield for her "outstanding" work in the "promotion of the rights of women in Egypt".

She is also one of the five finalists for the 2015 Frontlines Defenders award for human rights defenders at risk.