AUC law professor says police used ‘trumped up’ charges to detain him

Sunday, May 15th, 2011
Amr Shalakany

Shalakany was arrested after a verbal tussle with a police officer while vacationing in Sharm El Sheikh

Amr El Shalakany, an associate professor of law at AUC, was on April 27 arrested and detained in Sharm El Sheikh, on what he says are trumped up charges.

Shalakany had been vacationing at the popular Red Sea resort town when he got into an argument with a plain-clothes police officer who barred him from entering into Naema Bay, saying it was a restricted area. As Shalakany tried to reason with him, the officer allegedly began yelling insults at the driver and became aggressive.

Shalakany then went to the police station to file a complaint but was surprised to instead find that the tables had been turned against him.

“The first initial charge was on the first night; verbally assaulting and slandering a police officer, and being intoxicated in a public place,” said Shalakany.

He would later be charged with attempting to set fire to the police station where he was being held.

Shalakany willfully submitted to an alcohol test, which contradicted police charges and confirmed in forensic evidence that he had been in full possession of his faculties. He was then taken back to the police station and placed in lock-up.

“They took away my phone, lighter, belt, all of my [other] belongings, and the idea of contacting the outside world was out of my hands,” Shalakany told The Caravan.

Little did Shalakany know that when he was taken back to Sharm, officers at the Police Station had planted one of their informants, known as ‘Mohamed Kalba,’ to frame him for the later charge of setting fire to the police station.

Kalba had a police record which included “larceny, vagrancy, and sexual harassment” among other offenses.

During the four-day detention, he had played a major role in framing Shalakany in attempting to set fire to the police station.

Kalba falsely testified that Shalakany had admitted to taking part in a riot with other cellmates who had been chanting, “We should not suffer such insults to our dignity in post-revolution Egypt.”

In fact, Kalba had encouraged detainees to set fire to his blankets, if their demands for release by 10:15pm had not been met by the police.

Kalba then set fire to the blankets, blaming Shalakany for the act.

Shalakany and Kalba were transferred to the Military Prosecution Office in Suez where the AUC professor was charged with “inciting” Kalba to burn his blanket and the station.

He was also charged with the attempted arson of public property that led to the hospitalization of three detainees due to smoke inhalation.

But on the fourth day of detention, an investigation by the Military Prosecution Office found false eyewitness and unsubstantiated statements were used as the basis for the charges against Shalakany.

The military prosecutor’s investigation also found that Kalba was a wanted criminal for “encroachments on state land in the city of al-Qantara.”

Consequently it ruled non-jurisdiction over the case, and sent both men back to the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Torr.

Shalakany’s case was then transferred to a civilian court. His bail was set at EGP 100 and he was ordered released.

It was later revealed that officers at the Sharm El Sheikh police station promised Kalba that the charges in his case would be dropped if he successfully framed Shalakany.

While Shalakany was fortunate to have his case transferred to a civilian court, military tribunals  have been used to try over 5,000 civilians since February, according to a recent Human Rights Watch report.

Human rights organizations and activists have called for an immediate end to these trials, which constitute a violation of basic fair trial rights.

Many have highlighted the irony of former government officials, including former Minister of Interior Habib El Adly, being tried in normal courts while civilians are put before military tribunals.

Human rights activist Ahmed Naguib said that trying civilians in military courts is considered a violation of international law.

He added that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) “does not have the right to try those accused of misdemeanor charges in a military court since they acted as civilians.”

In his affidavit, Shalakany expressed his “respect and gratitude for the military prosecutor” who handled the case, and his army colleagues.

The statement described them as having “followed a most civil and professionally conscious course” as opposed to the mistreatment he received from the police officers.

“This revolution started on Police Day, January 25.  Police corruption and brutality are at its heart.  And this revolution won’t end until the people are convinced we’re turning an honest to God new page with the police,” said Shalakany.

Activist and AUC alumnus Hossam El Hamalawy, also known as blogger 3arabawy, stated that the military in Egypt was most probably not targeting Shalakany, as “their actions are extremely random.”

Regarding Shalakany’s case, Hamalawy commented that there are often negative consequences if an officer has a grudge against a civilian and acts on it.

Shalakany assured The Caravan that his relationship with the university as one of its faculty members has not been affected by this incident and that colleagues and university administration have been supportive.

The university, however, has refrained from addressing the issue in any public statements.

Shortly after Shalakany’s detention, a Twitter campaign under #freeshalakany hash-tag quickly triggered anger against the military, support for the AUC professor, and raised awareness about trying civilians in military courts.

Meanwhile, the “No to Military Trials of Civilians” campaign, one of several campaigns against military trials, held its third conference at the journalists’ syndicate last week.

“It’s a scandal:  the legal system under [former President Hosni] Mubarak offered Egyptians more safeguards for a fair trial than the system we have now, 100 days after the Revolution.  More civilians have been tried by military courts after the revolution than before Jan 25,” said Shalakany.

“Something’s seriously wrong here. We’re betraying the revolution.”

Human rights organizations and activists have condemned cases such as Shalakany’s saying that they highlight the practice of trying civilians before military courts.

In a series of law suits currently launched by several Human Rights Organizations, led by the Hisham Mubarak Center, Shalakany is now formally accusing “the Chief of Sharm El Sheikh Police Station, the Chief of Investigations Bureau, the Director of Investigations Bureau, and at least four other police officers and detectives of the Investigations Bureau of conspiracy to frame him for a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison before a military tribunal.

A prominent legal scholar, Shalakany received his Licence en droit and LL.M. degrees from Cairo University Faculty of Law, and LL.M and S.J.D from Harvard Law School.

He had also served as the LL.M. Program Director for the AUC Law Department for four years since its establishment in 2004.

For more on the “No to Military Trials for Civilians” campaign, click here.



Glad to hear Shalakany was released

Dear Caravan, Thanks for this great story. I was really worried about Professor Shalakany, and published on my blog about it. I am so sorry to hear about his long detention, and about the fact that he was framed. My work on the topic is here. Sincerely, Professor Warigia Bowman, Public Policy, AUC