CAIRO: In yet another twist in the recent libel suit against Ibrahim Eisa, editor of El-Destour newspaper, the first court session of his appeal was held yesterday, with a number of supporters in attendance, although the newspaper editor himself was not present.
On June 26, 2006, Eisa and two others were sentenced to one year in jail and hard labor in the first level court, with bail having been set at LE 10,000. The court also ruled that the plaintiffs would receive LE 2001 in compensation from the accused.
The case was postponed to Nov. 14. If Eisa’s appeal is rejected, he will serve a year in jail.
The incident began earlier this year when the newspaper published a report on April 5 about an Egyptian citizen from El-Warraq, Saeed Mohammed Abdullah, who had filed a lawsuit against President Hosni Mubarak and his family.
As a result, a group of people from El-Warraq, including some lawyers, filed a lawsuit against Abdullah, the citizen who had filed the lawsuit, Sahar Zaki, the journalist who had written the report, and Eisa, the editor of the paper.
Some of Eisa’s supporters carried Egyptian flags and banners supporting free press. No to jailing journalists! one banner proclaimed.
They re trying to silence free voices that expose corruption and oppression, says Radwan Adam, a journalist with El-Destour newspaper.
Not far from the court, an employee at a newspaper stand who refused to give his name said, Here, whoever tries to say the truth gets jailed.
Once the crowd started attracting people curious about the case, the police tried to disperse them peacefully.
We re here to defend Eisa and the law, says Sameh Ashour, the president of the lawyers syndicate and Eisa’s defense lawyer in this case. The first level case was full of irregularities; this is an unprecedented case, and they don t even know what they wrote in the ruling.
Three charges were brought against the accused under articles 102, 302 and 305 of the penal code.
In the primary court ruling, under article 102, the judge said that the information mentioned in El-Destour s article represents assault and slander toward Mubarak and his family, and that the law criminalizes insulting individuals in general.
The ruling also said that the article reflected poorly on Egypt s reputation as a country. The ruling continued that taking into account the conditions that the country is going through the article incited groups of people against others.
Also included in article 102, the ruling stated that the accused had caused great harm to the public interest when they published the article.
The plaintiffs added under article 102 that the accused defamed the area of El-Warraq in the article. The basis for the claim relates to a mention at the end of the article stating that the citizen who had filed the lawsuit lives in El Warraq, which belongs to the Giza Governorate, and is an area deprived of services, falling between being classified as a village and an unplanned housing neighborhood.
The ruling then states that the report itself was false and the journalist had no evidence when she published the story. According to article 305, publication of false information warrants punishment.
The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights says the claim is false. The case [Abdullah s] has been postponed to October 31, 2006. It s registered under the number 3019. Today, we will present a photocopy of the statement and the official records, says Shady Abdel Karim, who attended the verdict session as a representative of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights.
As soon as the judge announced that the case had been postponed, the crowd began chanting inside the court, Oh judges, oh judges, help us get rid of the tyrants.