CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - An outspoken Egyptian editor whose newspaper questioned the president's health has been referred to a court notorious for handing down swift convictions of spies and Islamists, in a move condemned by rights activists Wednesday.Once again -- State Security Emergency Courts (which in years of reporting I've never seen hand down an acquittal) offer no possibility of appeal, only a presidential pardon.
The referral of al-Dustour editor Ibrahim Eissa to State Security Emergency Court, whose verdict cannot be appealed, is the latest event in an unprecedented crackdown on the press that has seen the convictions against five newspaper editors and two journalists in the last few weeks.
"This is scary," said Nasser Amin, Eissa's lawyer and a legal rights activist said. "It's one of the most dangerous courts for civil liberties in Egypt after the military tribunal." Two weeks ago, Eissa was brought in for seven hours of questioning by a state security prosecutor on charges of disturbing the peace and harming national economic interests because of articles that ran in his newspaper repeating rumors that the president was seriously ill.
He was referred to trial for Oct. 1, but it wasn't clear until late on Tuesday in which court he would be tried.
If convicted, Eissa would face sentences ranging from 24 hours to three years in prison, as well as a fine, said Amin. Only the president has the power to overturn the court's sentence.
Update: It now seems that prominent commentator and Kifaya signatory Muhammad Sayyed Said, who recently launched the newspaper al-Badil (The Alternative), is being sued by a lawyer (presumably from the NDP, like the others who have filed suits lately) over the presidential health rumors issue.