Ibrahim 3eissa, the popular liberal editor of Al-Dostour, has been sentenced today to one year in prison, for "insulting" the president in an article he published April last year, that included a copy of a lawsuit filed by an Egyptian lawyer against President Hosni Mubarak and his family.
The court sentenced also another Al-Dostour reporter, Sahar Zaki, to a year in prison, together with Sa3eed Mohamed Abdallah Suleiman the lawyer who filed the original lawsuit quoted by Al-Dostour's article. Three other reporters were released on a LE10,000 bail, pending their appeal.
The article, published 5 April 2005, Issue 55, included accusations by the lawyer against Hosni Mubarak, Suzan Mubarak, and Gamal Mubarak of "waisting the country's resources" by "selling the public sector for a cheap price, ... squandering foreign aid." Suleiman demanded, in his lawsuit, that the president "returns LE500 billion to the treasury." He also accused the president of turning the "Arab Republic of Egypt into a monarchy" and "replacing the constitution with State Security rule."
Mubarak has usually been a favorite target for criticism on the weekly tabloid's frontpage.
There will be a press conference in the evening at Al-Dostour's office, 7pm, 29 Tanta St., 3agouza.
UPDATE: CPJ has issued a statement denouncing the court verdict.
EGYPT: Editor, reporter for weekly are sentenced to jail
New York, June 26, 2006â€”The Committee to Protect Journalists deplores todayâ€™s decision by an Egyptian court to sentence two journalists to a year in prison for publishing a report critical of President Hosni Mubarak, his family, and other top officials.
The court in Al-Warrak, north of Giza, sentenced Ibrahim Eissa, editor of the independent weekly Al-Dustour, and Sahar Zaki, a reporter for the paper, to a year in prison for insulting Mubarak, the newspaper said in a statement today. The journalists, who were not present for the verdict, are free on bail of 10,000 Egyptian pounds pending appeal.
The case against Eissa and Zaki stems from an April 5, 2005, news item that reported efforts by an Egyptian lawyer to take Mubarak and his family to court on allegations of corruption, including the alleged misuse of foreign aid. The lawyer, Said Abdullah, was also sentenced today to a year in jail. Over all, Al-Dustour has been a persistently harsh critic of Mubarak and his government.
Two years ago, Mubarak pledged to eliminate prison penalties against journalists for what they publish. The promise remains unfulfilled, and Egyptian journalists continue to be brought before criminal courts and sentenced to jail because of their criticism of government officials and other influential figures. In 2006 alone, CPJ has documented the cases of at least two other journalists sentenced to jail terms on defamation charges.
â€œTaken together with President Mubarakâ€™s empty promise, the continuing prosecutions of outspoken journalists demonstrate this governmentâ€™s hostility toward independent journalism,â€� CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. â€œWe call on Egypt to put an end to the egregious practice of prosecuting journalists for their work.â€�
UPDATE: Human Rights Watch blasted the court ruling in a statement.