The case hinges on Articles 117 and 180 of the Federal Penal Code.
Article 180 provides, on conviction, for three possible sentences, depending on the charges.
A person convicted of founding, organising or running a group or a branch of a group that seeks to overthrow the political system or promote such an aim, using force to achieve it, can be sentenced to 15 years in jail; a person convicted of membership of such a group can be jailed for three to five years; and a person convicted of directly or indirectly obtaining funds from any group or individual outside the country to promote the group and its goals can be sentenced to between one month and three years, and/or be fined.
Article 117 provides that a person sentenced to imprisonment for between three and 15 years can be given parole for no more than five years. For a person sentenced to more than one year, the period on parole may not exceed the time in prison.
To obtain a conviction, prosecutors must prove that a secret organisation has the intention to change the political system, that those accused are members of that organisation and/or have received funds for that purpose, and are aware of the group’s nature and purpose.
In this case, the accused deny all the charges, or having links to the Muslim Brotherhood. Some say they were unaware of the charges against them, and that their activities were limited to the promotion of Islam and its teachings.
Prosecutors say they have evidence the accused formed a secret organisation with its own committees, a shura council for men and another for women, a human resources committee and administrative offices.
It is important to distinguish between Al Islah society, a legal organisation not implicated in the trial, and Dawat Al Islah, a religious and political movement affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
Most of the accused are members of Al Islah society, but prosecutors say they all formed a parallel organisation modelled on the Muslim Brotherhood that is hierarchical, and has its own goals and ideology different from that of Al Islah.
Prosecutors say the accused formed a board of directors for this parallel organisation. Al Islah society has had a board of directors under the Ministry of Social Affairs for two decades.