CAIRO: Two bloggers and the director of a human rights organization who were defendants in a case seeking to close down 51 human rights websites, are again facing charges.
Alexandria Judge Abdel Fattah Murad, who has brought the case against them, accused Alaa Seif El Islam, Manal Bahy Eddin Hassan and Gamal Eid of defaming him in April 2007.
In December 2007 the Administrative Court rejected charges against the publishers of 51 websites which Murad alleged damaged Egypt’s reputation. Murad’s lawsuit against the 51 websites was brought after the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) accused the judge of plagiarizing one of its report on internet freedom.
Manalaa.net, one of the websites targeted by Murad’s lawsuit, is run by husband and wife Seif El-Islam and Hassan and covers human rights issues.
Gamal Eid’s organization, ANHRI, provides information on human rights violations in the Arab region, and is also on the Murad’s list.
Murad submitted a complaint to the Prosecutor General in April last year alleging that Seif El-Islam, Hassan and Eid had publicly defamed him in a State Council courtroom during a hearing of the website-blocking case.
According to an ANHRI press statement issued last year, the three were interrogated on April 4, 2007 by the Prosecutor General and then held for more than 10 hours by the police after the prosecutor ordered their release.
“This is a ridiculous case: the witnesses are the lawyers who brought charges against Karim Amer, Seif El-Islam told Daily News Egypt.
Blogger Karim Amer was imprisoned in 2007 for insulting Islam and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as well as inciting sedition.
Amer’s conviction was widely criticized as being both politically-motivated and an abuse of freedom of expression.
Seif El-Islam told Daily News Egypt that Hassan was not in court at the time of the incident.
“There was a scuffle involving Murad and others in court during which he alleges that we shouted obscenities at him, Seif El-Islam said.
“However at the time of this incident Manal wasn’t even in court: she had left by that time to go back to the office and I was not involved in this scuffle, he continued.
“These are trumped-up charges. Murad wants to punish us for exposing him during the website-blocking case, he continued.
The trial will begin on Sept. 26, 2008.