CAIRO: Cairo Criminal Court on Saturday ordered Adel Hammouda, editor-in-chief of Al-Fajr independent daily and Mohamed Al-Baz, to pay a fine of LE 80,000 as civil compensation for a case brought against them by Al-Azhar Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Tantawy.
Tantway had accused them of “deliberating insulting Al-Azhar institution through insulting the Al-Azhar Sheikh who represents the institution .
Hammouda and Al-Baz were made to pay a LE 500 on the spot.
Both Hammouda and Al-Baz were placed in the dock during the hearing.
Although both men were found guilty, the two men’s supporters present at the hearing were thrilled that the verdict did not include a jail sentence.
“All I’m worried about now is gathering the required LE 160,000 to end the case, Hammouda said after the ruling was pronounced.
Tantawy filed the law suit over a month ago when Al-Fajr ran an article by Al-Baz titled “The Grand Vatican Sheikh, deemed offensive by Tantawy. The piece was accompanied by a doctored image of Tantawy dressed in the robes of the Vatican Pope, with a big cross hanging from his neck.
Tantawy demanded the arrest of both men and accused the newspaper of “intentionally insulting him. He also turned down the request of a delegation from the Journalists’ Syndicate headed by syndicate chairman Makram Mohamed Ahmed, who visited Tantawy and asked him to drop the court case in return for the publication of a formal apology indicating that the newspaper never meant to insult him.
Coinciding with Hammouda and Al-Baz’s court session, two other publishing crimes lawsuits were also heard.
Al-Agouza Misdemeanors Appeals Court postponed until December 6 the appeal of a case filed last year by the National Democratic Party (NDP) against independent newspaper editors Hammouda, Ibrahim Eissa, chief editor of Al-Dostour, Wael Al-Ibrashy, editor of Sout Al-Umma weekly, and Abdel Halim Kandil, ex-editor of Al-Karamah newspaper.
The NDP lawsuit accused the four editors of publishing wrong information about President Mubarak’s health and of infringing Article 188 of the Egyptian Penal Code.
Article 188 criminalizes “publishing false information of a nature to disturb public order or security.
The recent hearing was appealing the one year imprisonment and LE 20,000 fine sentence the court had handed down in September 2007.
A week ago, Eissa was freed by a presidential decree that overturned a court verdict sentencing him two months in a case that was filed by another NDP lawyer for spreading rumors about the president’s health and death.
Also on Saturday, Al-Agouza Misdemeanors Court referred a case against Kandil filed by steal magnate Ahmed Ezz who also heads of the logistics committee at the NDP, to different court.
Ezz sued Kandil for publishing false information in an article he wrote titled “The Thief of Egypt published in Sout Al-Umma newspaper.