Kim El Narsh 0

Transparency in the trial of Zoheir Garranah

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An Open Letter & Petition to H.E. Dr. Essam Sharaf Prime Minister of the Arab Republic of Egypt Cairo, Egypt April 21, 2011 Your Dear Excellency Dr. Essam Sharaf, First and foremost, allow us to add our voices to those of the millions of Egyptian citizens who have congratulated you on the assumption of your post as Prime Minister of the Arab Republic of Egypt during these historic yet most critical times that our nation is passing through. The determination and moral courage that you have demonstrated throughout your professional and public career, and the resolve and tenacity that you are known to have shown when challenged, fills us as with hope that you will be able to place our beloved Egypt on the beginning of the road to the brighter future we deserve. Secondly, we the undersigned individuals and organizations write you today as Egyptian citizens who share your belief that respect for law is one the fundamental bases upon which our nation is founded. However, we also write you today as gravely concerned citizens who collectively express their fear that as a result of the tumultuous series of events that continue to develop as of the outbreak of the January 25th Revolution, justice may truly be in jeopardy. While the revolution has unquestionably resulted in the opportunity for the rebirth of such noble values as freedom, democracy, social equity, and justice which we all revere; repercussions that have followed in its aftermath have caused us to raise questions as to whether or not some of these values can be fully upheld at these unprecedentedly fragile times. More specifically, we collectively raise our voice in concern over the ability of former Tourism Minister Zoheir Garranah to receive a transparent, fair and just trial, for the reasons we point out below. Your Excellency, while we strongly believe that any public official irrespective of post or stature is neither above questioning nor above the law, we are also aware that every human being has the right to a fair trial—a basic human right deemed essential as per the Egyptian Constitution and as per the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The presumption of innocence until the accused is proven guilty is also an inherent right; as is the entitlement in full equality to a fair hearing by an independent and impartial judicial tribunal. Moreover, there are international minimum standards for the rights and treatment of accused persons during their period of detention. As per the above, and in light of what has and continues to take place with respect to the case of former Minister of Tourism Zoheir Garranah we find that several of such rights have been repetitively violated and therefore fear that Mr. Garranah has been subjected to a number of serious and inexplicable injustices even from before the onset of his trial, thereby gravely affecting public opinion in a highly unfavorable way and making it extremely difficult, if not impossible for him to receive a fair trial. Our concerns are based on the following: Violations of Human Rights on Several Occasions: On February 17th, the Prosecutor General imposed a travel ban on Mr. Garranah, in addition to issuing an order to freeze funds, financial assets and other economic resources belonging to Mr. Garranah; a decision which arguably in itself is a violation of human rights and the due process of law according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. When such actions are pursued against persons without prior presentation of sufficient evidence from the legal tribunal in advance, so that the accused is informed of the offense and the particulars of the charges against them, this constitutes a violation of human rights (challenges have been successfully made in international courts in similar cases and even in cases that involve more serious allegations such as terrorism). On February 23, Mr. Garranah, was summoned to Criminal Court from the Torah Prison Complex in an appalling scene which involved a near attack of the vehicle he was transported in by pre-gathered and ferociously awaiting mobs who subjected him to pelting and shoe-throwing, derogatory verbal attacks and the threat to burn the vehicle whilst he was inside. This contemptuous scene continued inside the premises of the courthouse which was packed with journalists and others who continued the insults and used their cell phones to film the proceedings and later on shared this footage with millions of viewers in Egypt and around the world. The same despicable entry scene was repeated once more upon Mr. Garranah’s exit; thereby resulting in the following specific violations to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Trial-awaiting prisoners who have not been sentenced are entitled to basic human rights, including the right to dignity--a right which is inviolable in all circumstances irrespective of the nature of the charges or the on-going state of affairs in Egypt at large. It is the responsibility of the judicial system to ensure that it provides the private and public level of security for trial-pending prisoners and to ensure the environment that respects and protects their safety and human dignity. To allow the above incident to occur, or to have abstained from taking the appropriate measures for preventing it from happening has resulted in the defamation and stigmatization of Mr. Garranah and caused him to be labeled as “criminal” prior to allowing the due process of law to take its course. Again, the judicial system in any “democratic” society is expected to play an effective role in avoiding the stigmatization of pre-trial detainees. This was clearly not the case. Preferential Treatment of Former Public Officials Held in Detention: We have noticed the selective and preferential treatment of the public officials currently detained and undergoing investigation, particularly during the first 40 days of Zoheir Garranah’s detention (before the week of April 9th when other more prominent officials were detained). For example, while Mr. Garranah was subjected to the circumstances as described in item #1 above, other detainees arrived for their hearing in Criminal Court in a fully secured armored vehicle, in what was described as extremely tight security. Despite the raging crowds they were carefully escorted to the courthouse, and journalists were strictly prohibited from entering the room with their cell phones. Pictures of selective former public officials in the press and televised media, for the most part continue to feature them in professional business suit attire, in direct contrast to the almost daily feature of photos of Garranah dressed in white, and behind bars with footage of this humiliating parade to court as described above televised over and over again. Even the Ministry of Interior’s former Head of Cairo Security Ismail Al-Shaer; former Head of Public Security Ali Fayed; former Head of State Security Forces Ahmed Ramzi; and former Head of the Cairo State Security Investigative Unit Hussein Abdul Rahman—who all face the much more serious charge of murdering peaceful protestors during the 18 days of pro-democracy demonstrations that began on January 25th, arrived to their court sessions with their full dignity and security preserved. Should we assume that those entrusted with overseeing justice and security learned from the “unexpected” happenings that transpired on Feb 23, when Garranah was summoned to Criminal Court, and therefore took heighted precautionary measures during subsequent persons’ hearings, then there should have been a formal and public apology to Mr. Garranah, to his family, and to all the honorable Egyptian citizens who revere justice and what it stands for. This would have attested to the strength and independence of the judicial system as we seek a new Era of democracy and transparency in Egypt, in addition to possibly having served to bring back the preponderant majority of the general public to the position of moderation in lieu of the extreme vengefulness we witness manifesting itself in new and different ways every day. Mr. Garranah was detained in prison on allegations while many others who were also the subject of expected investigation were not imprisoned for a very long time. Mr. Garranah unlike others who were called in for investigation never fled the country. Reluctance on the Part of Legal Counsels to Defend the Accused: Several of Egypt’s finest legal experts, opinion leaders, prominent jouralists and businessmen have made public statements pleading for the need to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the dire need for government and media intervention to create a suitable environment for being able to conduct a fair trial for those being currently investigated. Several lawyers have also publically stated that they too are skeptical as to whether those in question can even receive a fair trial at this point due to the tremendous mobilization of pubic opinion that is anxiously awaiting an exceptionally expedited trail which will result in the announcement of guilty verdicts and the harshest of sentencing. Dr. Mohammed Selim El Awwa, Dr. Ragai Attia, and Dr. Ahmed Kamal Aboul Magd have all expressed this concern. Others have declined to even accept potential clients for fears of becoming unpopular with the street at this time. Some lawyers have also been subjected to assault and battery on upon appearing in Criminal Court, Your Excellency, we genuinely feel this is turning into injustice for all and justice for none. Difficulty of Access to Pivotal Evidence: Furthermore, several lawyers representing the public officials facing trial (including those representing Mr. Garranah have experienced great difficulty in acquiring supporting legal documents which if obtained would serve as pivotal proof with respect to some of the charges raised against him). This is far from a normal day in Egypt. Had it been, the current charges against Zoheir Garranah would have been regarded as administrative infringements and not criminal charges. Access to evidence is crucial. Hallmarks of a Trial in the Media & Court of Public Opinion As Opposed to A Trial in the Courts of Justice: Stating this point last by no means indicates that it is of lesser significance, in fact, to a great extend the contrary. Your Excellency, the media circus surrounding the on-going trial of Zoheir Garranah and others is overwhelming and overwhelmingly negative. The media, wanting to appease the sentiments of “the street” has for the most part lost both credibility and objectivity. They have succeeded in tarnishing the reputation of those in question and their families in a cruel and unfair way and reversing the universal law of innocent until proven guilty. Instead of playing a responsible and educational role at these most defining times in our nation’s history they have chosen to position themselves as the executors of “justice” and the “heros” of “operation cleanse corruption.” Is it not a possibility that some of the accused will be proven innocent? How do they go back to an even semi-normal life? Will they be able to walk safely in the streets? More importantly, are people like Zoheir Garranah the real reasons behind the demise of Egypt over the past 30 years or are there others who are more worthy of such accusations? The irresponsible media has also managed to turn every successful businessman into a suspect and walking target. If this trend continues we will witness major withdrawal of investments and capital flight from Egypt, from Egyptian nationals before foreign investors. This is in nobody’s interest as it translates into direct economic losses on all fronts for everyone, at time when we need nothing more than confidence and investment and the creation of jobs to rebuild and improve our lives. Conclusion: Dear Mr. Prime Minister, We apologize if this petition has been too lengthy, however, we feel that those willing to listen to the voice of reason are too few, and an overhyped public opinion that seems to have been intentionally launched against Zoheir Garranah, (someone who once was a very low profile government official in charge of a services ministry far removed from the arena of politics) is all too loud. Knowing that Your Excellency has been a victim of injustice in the past, as such we took the liberty to speak freely, certain that our voices will fall upon someone who understands. We cannot condone people before the due process of law takes its course. Our judicial system under the wise leadership of your government cannot afford to begin a new era of democracy for Egypt by erroneously putting itself on the wrong side justice, and therefore the wrong side of history. We need to purge our country and all its organizations from the ills of the past, not reinforce them. We look to your government to reinstate the independence of the Egyptian judicial system and to separate it from the political influences which have for long tainted it. We are confident that you will remind the nation of the purpose of our legal system and the respect it should command. We were all encouraged by the statement you made during your first press conference “the government’s general adopted philosophy is to make Egypt a state of law.” We also kindly ask that your government plays an efficacious role in bringing the media and the legal system back to the middle, for it is only in the middle where one is best positioned to see both sides of any issue. The greatest tragedy of all would be if political expediency or otherwise dictates the compromise of such fundamental moral principles as fairness, transparency, and justice for all. Your Excellency, In closing, we would like to express that we fully understand that former Minister of Tourism Zoheir Garranah’s innocence, and that of any person accused is a matter which God-willing will be proved by the due process of law given that the trial is fair and transparent and that there is no predetermined motive to frame him from an overthrown regime. However, Garranah’s noteworthy contributions to the growth and development of Egypt’s tourism sector during his five year tenure are thankfully not a point of contention but one of praise both nationally and internationally. During Zoheir Garranahs’ five year tenure Egypt’s tourism sector became a fundamental pillar of the Egyptian economy; growing from an annual 8.6 million tourist arrivals in December 2005 to reach 14.7 arrivals in December 2010; a gastronomical growth over more than 80%.  Foreign exchange revenues increased from 6.8 billion to 12.5 billion USD over the same period of time, despite the tumultuous economic and financial crisis faced by the world at large as of the last quarter of 2008.   When Minister Garranah left office, in January 2011, tourism had become Egypt’s best performing economic sector overall. Zoheir Garranah was appointed to the position of Chairman of the United Nation World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) Tourism Resilience Committee in October 2008. Garranah also achieved the status of Permanent Observer for Egypt’s tourism sector on the Tourism Committee of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), making Egypt the first country in the Middle East and Africa to attain this status in tourism. Minister Garranah’s primary goal during his term was to focus on the development of human resources within the tourism industry; an objective which he believed was the cornerstone and most critical element to maintaining and growing Egypt’s tourism sustainably into the future. For these accomplishments at least we think he deserves our profound appreciation. Respectfully, The undersigned

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