CAIRO: Standing on the steps of the Journalists’ Syndicate, press and activists – led by the Head of the Freedom Committee Mohamed Abdel Qoddous – voiced Monday their support for Al-Fajr journalist Kamal Murad, who was assaulted and arrested by police last month.
Activists leading the demonstration called for the cessation of police attacks on journalists and immediate government intervention into Murad’s case, stating that, “aggression on a Fajr journalist is aggression on all journalists and “police attacks of journalists is nothing but a settling of scores.
They also called on the Ministry of Interior to clarify the laws that govern press freedoms stating that the constitution permits freedom of opinion and press.
Murad, 28, was reportedly assaulted by police as he took pictures of the eviction of Ezbet El-Muharram farmers in Rahmaniya on June 17.
Although attacks against journalists are not uncommon in Egypt, Murad believes he was victimized by police after they discovered his identity as the journalist is known for his coverage of the Emad El-Kabir rape case. El-Kabir was raped and tortured by police while being held in custody.
Murad told Daily News Egypt that he witnessed police and land gangs force farmers to sign leases prior to their immediate eviction. They then humiliated male farmers by forcing them to strip to their underclothes, while the women were dragged along dirt tracks.
“I was taking pictures of gang leader Abu Khiyar and police drinking tea together, and being served kebabs while they watched their colleagues terrorize the farmers. When they saw me, they assaulted me before taking my [camera’s] memory card.
Murad was forced into police truck, known as the box, for three hours, where he was denied water, before taking him to a police station.
“When I got to the police station they made a report against me, fabricated entirely by investigation officer Amro Allam. He claimed that it was I who had assaulted police officers and agitated farmers against police. I asked to see the head of the station, but was told there was none.
After refusing to sign the report, he was then transferred to a security station, where he was held without access to food or drink, before being transferred to the public prosecution later that evening. Murad claims he was refused legal representation, and that police confiscated his mobile phone.
“I waited two hours at the public prosecution s office, but when it was over, I was brought straight back to the police station, where I was beaten by police, before being forced to spend the night. Police said they were waiting for the report to be filed by the public prosecution.
Murad was released two days after his initial arrest. He faces charges including assuming false identity, assaulting police, agitating farmers and slander. Murad denies all charges against him, and has issued a counter-complaint against police officers by whom he was assaulted.
“I have heard nothing back from the public prosecution with regards to my complaint, but I am aware there is a case running against me, he told Daily News Egypt. Murad could now face six months to six years in prison.
Reporters without Borders demanded the withdrawal of charges against Murad, calling his persecution by police “unacceptable.
Meanwhile, “Horiyitna, the national board to defend prisoners of expression and freedoms, has used a petition to gather support for the farmers’ plight from Egypt’s Human Rights groups.
Mohamed Abdel-Qoddous, journalist and director of Horiyitna, hopes to trigger much needed journalist interest in the persecution of farmers nationwide.
Referring to the daily harassment of farmers from often government-assisted forces, the petition states that, “These daily practices have become a state policy which governs relations with farmers in Egypt, something that goes against all state covenants pertaining to human rights.