Court verdict in favor of Haram City inhabitants

Publish Date: 
Monday, April 14, 2014

On April 9th, the Egyptian Center for Housing Rights (ECHR) won a court verdict in favor of Haram City inhabitants, who were found innocent after 88 low-income people were accused of stealing doors and windows from a housing project.

The Court initially ruled against the inhabitants and ordered a six month jail sentence. However, the accused and their advocates at the ECHR were not informed of the decision, which was made without their presence. Following an appeal by the ECHR, the court reviewed the case again, at which time it found the accused to be guilty, and charged them with one week of jail time, a penalty that twenty seven people immediately complied with. The ECHR then appealed the case again, this time before the high court, which resulted in the innocent verdict.

The dispute that gave rise to the case dates back to the year 2008 after a rock slide in Dawiyqa, an informal area in Cairo, resulted in dozens of injuries and several deaths. Following the incident, the government decided to resettle Dawiyqa residents living in dangerous locations to new sites. Due to the lack of available public housing units at that time, the government made a deal with the Orascom Company, from which small units were purchased and distributed to people undergoing the resettlement process.

A number of families expressed dismay about the very small  size of the new housing unit, some of which were limited to 22 square meters, while other families received larger units measuring 63 meters.

The inhabitants who were unsatisfied with the adequacy of the new housing units attempted multiple times to meet with officials of the city of Cairo without success. As the winter progressed, some family members were compelled to sleep outside the flats. Facing an intolerable situation, some of the families, broke into the 63 meter units in order to occupy them.

The Orascom Company filed a case in court to evict the people from the units and achieved a favorable verdict, after which time the ECHR was able to halt the eviction and contest the decision in court.

The ECHR subsequently filed another case against the Cairo Governorate in order to guarantee equal treatment for those inhabitants; principally via the award of larger (63 meter) housing units,, and to clarify that their acquisition of the units is between the inhabitants and the Cairo governorate and not between the inhabitants and Orascom Company. In a separate case, ECHR successfully defended the residents against charges that arose from their resistance against the eviction order, including allegedly mobbing and/or assaulting authorities; disturbing the public order, etc.

In the wak of this recent successful court verdict, ECHR plans to file cases against Orascom Company for lodging false allegations and against the State to demand compensation for the unjust imprisonment for one week of several of the accused.

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