Aya Hegazy and members of Belady Foundation acquitted

On 16 April 2017, the Cairo Criminal Court acquitted children’s rights defenders, Aya Hegazy, her husband, Mohammed Hassanein, and six of their colleagues, after three years in detention. The Court ruled that the charges against them were unfounded. The eight human rights defenders all worked with the Belady Foundation for Street Children and had been charged with organised gang crimes, including child abduction and trafficking, as a result of their involvement with the Foundation.

Aya Hegazy has worked specifically on children’s rights over the the past few years. In February 2014, along with her husband, Mohammed Hassanein, she launched the Belady Foundation for Street Children. The foundation aimed to address the plight of street children in Egypt who did not have the opportunity to attend school, and provide them with reading, writing and art classes, recycling workshops, and other activities. Advocacy campaigns for children’s rights were also developed by the foundation, along with several other initiatives to improve the lives of street children.

Aya Hegazy and Mohammed Hassanein were first arrested with two of their colleagues in May 2014. At the time, the four had been falsely accused of kidnapping a child who had been taken in by the Belady Foundation for shelter and protection. Aya Hegazy and Mohammed Hassanein were consequently held in detention for three years pending investigation and trial. During the three years that Aya Hegazy and Mohammed Hassanein were detained, the human rights defenders’ trial was postponed on numerous occasions.

According to international legal standards, pre-trial detention shall only be used as a means of last resort. Egypt has nonetheless used pre-trial detention as a means to prosecute and punish human rights defenders in order to obstruct their legitimate human rights work. A report released in May 2016 by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights highlighted that Egyptian authorities have held at least 1,464 people, most of whom are peaceful protesters, in pre-trial detention for periods that have exceeded the legal limit and without means to challenge the judge’s decision to renew their detention.

Source: Front Line Defenders