CAIRO: Egyptian NGO the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) has condemned the “cruel judgment issued against a blogger convicted of defamation.
Tamer Mabrouk, author of the “Egyptian Truth blog (elhakika.blogspot.com), was on Tuesday fined LE 2,500 and ordered to pay a further LE 40,000 as compensation to the Trust Chemicals Company.
ANHRI said in a statement issued in June that this case is the first of its kind to target an Egyptian blogger.
“ANHRI believes this sentence to be overly harsh, and that it will be an unacceptable violation of freedom of expression if carried out, read its statement issued on Wednesday.
“It disregards the right to legitimate criticism, affirming once again the fact that whenever we move one step forward in freedom of expression and opinion, such an unfair verdict is enough to drag us several steps backward.
Last year Mabrouk, from Port Said, published pictures on his blog showing the dumping of dangerous substances into Manzallah Lake and the Suez Canal.
He also made allegations concerning working conditions inside the Trust Chemicals factory.
In addition to suggesting that the case violates Mabrouk’s right to freedom of expression, ANHRI criticized the case on several legal bases, stating that the lawsuit was filed “with total disregard for article 60 of the Egyptian Penal Code.
This article provides that “the provisions of the Penal Code do not apply to any act committed with good intentions in implementation of a right under law.
“The court has obviously ignored the blogger’s defense, which he based around the argument that his writing satisfied the conditions of permitted criticism of a factual incident in the public interest, the statement reads.
“The other aspect of his defense was the ambiguity of elements of the indictment, which were not even mentioned in the original complaint, and the failure of the company to pinpoint the terms [used by Mabrouk] on which its allegation of defamation is based.
“ANHRI expected support from the judiciary for the right to constructive criticism and for freedom of expression and opinion.
“ANHRI reaffirms the need to change the laws which restrict these freedoms. This is the sword that – until this happens – remains hanging over the heads of every opinion maker in Egypt.