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Insulting president complaints ‘unprecedented’

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Rights group says ‘political reasons’ behind dramatic rise in lese-majesty complaints

The number of prosecutions for insulting the president has reached unprecedented levels since President Mohamed Morsy took office. The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) have detailed a list of Egyptians prosecuted for insulting the president during his first 200 days in office in an 11-page report; The Crime of Insulting the President, a Crime of an Authoritarian Regime.

ANHRI’s report compares the number of cases under Morsy’s tenure with past rulers of Egypt. In Morsy’s first six months as president, there have been 24 prosecutions for insulting the president. The office of the presidency filed three of these complaints to the prosecutor general, while ANHRI said the remaining 21 were filed by other individuals for “political reasons.”

Nine complaints were filed under former prosecutor general Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, who was replaced in November by Tala’at Abdallah, under whom 14 complaints have already been filed.

In total, 23 individuals were accused of insulting the president, including journalists, television presenters and activists. Nine newspapers had complaints filed against them, including Al-Masry Al-Youm, Al-Tahrir, Al-Watan and Al-Dostour. Two channels, Al-Faraeen and Al-Qahira wal Nas were also included among those to have allegedly insulted Morsy.

The report also includes a list of those who filed the complaints.

“The Egyptian president began his second 100 days of his rule, and before they ended, had record-breaking numbers of prosecution of writers, journalists, newspapers, and TV, a disgrace to any democratic rule,” said the report.

“The figures dwarf those under Mubarak, under whom there were four cases of insult accusing six people. There was only one case under Sadat, accusing poet Ahmed Fouad Negm and Mohamed Fathy Mahmoud.”

The rule of King Farouq saw the most prosecutions for insulting the president before Morsy, with seven journalists being accused.

Article 179 of the penal law prohibits insulting the president. There is no specific definition of insult, which has been interpreted widely by those filing complaints. Insulting the president is an imprisonable offence.


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