The State Security Prosecution acquitted on Monday Al-Fagr journalist Tarek Hafez with a bail of EGP 5,000 after being accused of “violating the prestige of the Supreme Judicial Council,” among other accusations.
The investigations took place after Hafez published a report on 20 April in Al-Fagr newspaper, which included “supporting evidence of corruption in the judicial system,” as well as a list proving that relatives of judges are appointed in different judicial positions.
Hafez told Daily News Egypt that he was summoned by the National Security Apparatus a week after publishing the investigative report.
“I thought I was being called as a witness, not as a defendant,” he added.
After the report was published, the Supreme Judicial Council held a meeting concerning one of the officials mentioned in Hafez’s report, who was appointed to his position even though he was involved in a torture case, Hafez added.
The torture case mentioned is that of Talaat Shabeb, who was allegedly tortured to death by police officers in Luxor in November 2015.
After the Supreme Judicial Council’s meeting, Hafez said he “expected to be honoured.”
Hafez also explained that the investigations did not include any questions concerning the authenticity of the facts he had reported, but rather about the sources who had given him such information and evidence.
Citing his legal right to keep the anonymity of journalistic sources, he declined to answer such questions from the interrogators.
Hafez is seeking to counter the lawsuit that was filed by the Supreme Judicial Council, by filing another lawsuit against both the council and the prosecution.
“We are still searching into the proper legal action to consider the prosecution as opponent in the case,” he said.
Hafez also questioned the intentions behind the accusations directed at him, adding “we are entering a phase of creating new accusations, particularly for journalists.”
Former head of the State Council Mohamed Hamed Al-Gamal explained that the accusation that could fit such a case would be a crime of defamation; however, the accusation directed at the defendant [Hafez] did not have any legal or judicial value. He told Daily News Egypt, “I have never heard of such an accusation before.”
Furthermore, Hafez added that the Press Syndicate did not interfere in the case, and head of the Syndicate Abdel Mohsen Salama did not answer his pleas for help, and no legal support was offered by the syndicate.
However, he clarified that members of the syndicate’s council communicated with him and expressed their solidarity with his case.
The Front to Defend Journalists (FDJ) condemned the inaction of the Press Syndicate towards Hafez’s case particularly and towards violations to press freedom generally, according to the FDJ’s press statement.
The FDJ further added that Salama made several promises during his campaign concerning the imprisonment of journalists, which he did not fulfill after he was elected.
“Not only had the head of the syndicate ignored the issue and our colleague’s calls on the night of the investigations, but the syndicate also did not send a lawyer to defend Hafez,” the FDJ said.
Member of the Press Syndicate council Amr Badr told Daily News Egypt that the syndicate will provide any legal support that the case requires, and it is in solidarity with Hafez.
Badr also described the case as a clear “publishing case” and said that the syndicate’s council is holding a meeting to discuss the appropriate measures to be taken towards the case.
Meanwhile, member of parliament (MP) Kamal Amer reportedly presented a draft law on Monday to tighten the penalties concerning insulting the president of the state, the parliament, the judiciary, or the military forces.