A journalist convicted of “reporting false news” in Upper Egypt will seek an appeal against the five year prison sentence and EGP 500 fine handed to him on 23 June, according to his lawyer.
The court will examine the appeal on 20 July, with journalist Beshoy Armia’s lawyer, Karam Ghobrial, saying that “appeal comes as a response to the unfair trial Armia received.”
Armia, formerly known as Mohamed Hegazy, was also charged with “filming a video footage of civil and sectarian clashes between Muslims and Christians in Al-Minya for a foreign television channel.”
He added the court argued “that the captured video footage was used in the international media to show the weakness of the security apparatus in Egypt”. Ghobrial added that court also argued the footage showed the increased persecution of Copts in the country.
“In the appeal, the fairness of the trail is questioned. Plus, the obvious bias of the police officers responsible for the investigation and the officials assigned to issue the verdict is alarming,” continued Ghobrial. “Many official papers in the case refer to Armia as a convert, which is against the law as it singles out the defendant according to his belief.”
Armia converted from Islam to Christianity in 2007. The court refused to “have his conversion reflected on his national identification card after changing his name,” Ghobrial said.
Another reason for issuing the appeal, he continued, is that verdict “didn’t include paying the bail to release the accused until the appeal, as in all misdemeanour crimes.”
Ghobrial mentioned that another appeal was sent to the prosecutor general to “ensure the fairness of the court and that his client [Armia] is tried not as a convert from Islam but as a defendant waiting for the court’s verdict.”
“During the reign of the Muslim Brotherhood, we did not witness such level of unfairness. All journalists filmed and reported the clashes that the country witnessed after the ouster of Morsi, and none of them were charged with inciting sectarian strife,” he said.
According to Ishak Ibrahim, a researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), “the appeal should be a step to make sure the defendant is receiving a fair trial, with no bias.”
Armia is one of a number of journalists who has been subjected to prison sentences. On 23 June, three Al Jazeera journalists were handed harsh prison sentences based on accusations of aiding a terrorist group and threatening national security.