CAIRO: Former foreign minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit dropped defamation charges against columnist Hamdy Qandil he had pressed early 2010, lawyer Hafez Abu Seada told Daily News Egypt Monday.
“Yesterday, Aboul Gheit’s lawyer withdrew the case against Qandil who was accused of [defaming and insulting a public employee while on duty],” added Abu Seada, also Secretary General of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights.
On May 3, 2010, Qandil, also a former TV host, wrote an article entitled “The Disgrace of the Homeland and the Citizen,” concluding it by slamming normalization with Israel.
In his column, Qandil denounced some contradictory remarks made by both Egypt’s ambassador to Israel and Aboul Gheit.
“Egypt’s ambassador to Israel has confirmed that he lives in [a friendly] country, which contradicts earlier statements by the foreign minister, describing Israel as an enemy,” he wrote.
Qandil added that the reason the ambassador made this comment was to correct the foreign minister’s previous gaffe. He further said that Aboul Gheit made his statements “inadvertently.”
“Usually words fall from his mouth like dropping of a torn rubbish bag,” Qandil wrote.
The first trial hearing was held on Nov. 20, 2010.
According to Abu Seada, the January 25 Revolution that ousted the corrupt regime of former president Hosni Mubarak was a direct reason behind Aboul Gheit’s decision.
“Had he not dropped charges against Qandil, Aboul Gheit could have lost the case anyway now that his performance and his stance towards the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip are in question,” Abu Seada argued.
“But thanks to the January 25 Revolution, Qandil’s case is over. Otherwise the court could have handed him a prison sentence,” he added.
Before the revolution, Aboul Gheit’s ministerial performance and adopted foreign policy were frequently criticized by opposition forces and activists who insisted on his removal after Mubarak stepped down on Feb. 11 following an 18-day nationwide uprising.
In March, Aboul Gheit was replaced by Nabil El-Araby, a high-profile international legal expert and diplomat, to join the caretaker government led by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf.
Earlier during interrogations in May, Qandil told the prosecutor that he did not intend to offend Aboul Gheit personally, adding that he had “public interest” at heart.
On January 24, the South Giza Court rejected an earlier demand by Qandil’s 12-member defense team to transfer his trial to another court, claiming the judge appeared “biased” to his opponent.
Qandil is known for his scathing criticism of Arab regimes. A TV show he used to host was halted more than once on several satellite channels.
Qandil is also a founding member of the National Association for Change (NAC) lobbying for political reform demanded by opposition leader and former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei.
Last week, the US State Department’s 2010 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in 190 countries criticized the status of freedom of expression in Egypt during the era of former president Hosni Mubarak.
A total of 68 lawsuits were filed against 24 journalists in 2010, according to the Moltaqa Forum for Development and Human Rights Dialogue.