CAIRO: The Cairo Appeals Court is scheduled to issue a verdict today in the case of the four newspaper editors who were handed down one-year jail sentences and a LE 20,000 fine last year.
Adel Hammouda, of Al-Fajr, Ibrahim Eissa, editor of Al-Dostour, Wael El-Ebrashy, editor of Sout Al-Omah weekly, and Abdel Halim Qandil, ex-editor of Al-Karama newspaper were charged by the Criminal Court of Agouza with intentionally insulting President Mubarak, head of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), as well as other NDP members.
In November 2006, a lawyer from Al-Gamalia district affiliated with the NDP filed a lawsuit against the four editors for publishing articles that allegedly insult President Mubarak.
A few months later another lawyer, Ashraf Hossam Al-Din, also affiliated with the NDP, filed a second lawsuit accusing the editors of publishing false information about the party and some of its members.
The case was then transferred from Al-Gamalia Court to Al-Agouza Court in Giza.
Yehia Al-Alash, secretary general of the Journalists’ Syndicate, told Daily News Egypt that he has no expectations regarding the verdict.
However he pointed out weaknesses in the charges leveled against them, saying that nobody has the right to file a lawsuit on behalf of a political group or public political figure of authority.
Al-Alash indicated that similar cases filed against Eissa before – on behalf of political parties – were dismissed by the respective courts.
“In principle, we [journalists and the Journalists’ Syndicate] reject the idea of journalists being subject to jail sentences, he added.
The Agouza Court s verdict that was issued in September 2007 caused an outcry by human rights organizations.
Hossam Bahgat, chairman of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights described the ruling as outrageous, pointing his finger at the regime as well as the government newspapers for suppressing the role of independent newspapers.
Gamal Eid, director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, linked the verdict with the government s impatience with the independent press and its lack of tolerance for criticism.
He dubbed the verdict “the worst of its kind in the era of Hosni Mubarak. Last October, Eissa was handed down a two-month jail sentence for publishing rumors about President Hosni Mubarak s health but received a presidential pardon a few days after the verdict.
The People s Assembly had debated scrapping jail sentences for journalists from the publishing offenses law, but NDP members voted against it despite fervent objections of opposition forces in the assembly, MP Farid Ismail previously told Daily News Egypt.