Egyptian court overturns jail terms for newspaper editors


Cairo : An Egyptian appeals court has thrown out jail sentences against four editors of opposition newspapers on charges of insulting senior members of the ruling party, lawyers for the editors said Sunday.

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The editors, Ibrahim Issa, Abdel Halim Qandil, Adil Hammouda and Wael al-Ibrashi were sentenced to a year in prison each in September 2007. The Giza court upheld the guilty verdict Saturday, but reduced the sentence to fines of 20,000 Egyptian pounds (US$3,600) each. Lawyers said they would appeal again to lift the fines.

The Cairo-based Arabic Network for Human Rights Information called the guilty verdict “a black stain on the government”, in a statement released after the verdict.

“The Egyptian government is notorious for its human rights record and for its hostility to press freedom in particular,” the organisation said.

All of the editors have faced multiple lawsuits for their work. In September, a court sentenced Ibrahim Issa to two months in prison on charges that his reports that President Hosny Mubarak was ill caused capital flight from Egypt. President Mubarak pardoned him.

Wael al-Ibrashi, editor of the weekly Sawt al-Umma, says that he is currently the subject of 58 open court cases brought by “lawyers affiliated with the ruling party”.

Abdel Halim Qandil, the former editor of the Nasserist al-Karama newspaper and now the editor of Sawt al-Umma, has also been the subject of dozens of criminal cases for his work.

In 2004, Qandil publicly accused thugs of pulling him into a car, beating him, and telling him to “stop writing about the big guys”. In a criminal complaint he filed at the time, he said the thugs then stripped him naked and left him in the desert.