CAIRO: On Jan. 8, Cairo International Airport security prevented Doha-based documentary film producer Howayda Taha from boarding a plane for Qatar and confiscated 50 videotapes in her possession, her laptop and some books.
After two days of questioning by state security the reported mock torture footage and re-enactments of alleged police abuse in her possession, Taha, an Egyptian, was released on LE 10,000 bail.
But she was charged with a violation of Article 80/D in the Penal Code which relates to transgressions considered to be threatening to the country s national interest.
She was also charged with the possession and transfer of falsified graphics that “tarnish Egypt’s reputation and image .
Taha’s arrest made front page headlines throughout the country as newspapers and blogs published video footage and accounts of what they claimed were police brutality.
On Feb. 7, the Al-Nozha Misdemeanour Court postponed her trial to Feb. 21.
In an exclusive interview with The Daily Star Egypt, Taha, 43, said she remains undeterred and will likely broadcast the documentary – including the confiscated re-enactments – at the end of February.
“I feel very strong and I do not fear the court’s decision whatsoever. I have other copies of the confiscated videotapes and I am working hard now to finalize the documentary to show it by the end of the month, she said.
She questioned how the court could arrive at a verdict when the documentary has not yet been edited for broadcast.
Ramadan Mohamed, Taha’s husband, attended the court session on her behalf and said the documentary will be shown in two parts, each 50 minutes long.
“By the end of the month, Al-Jazeera Documentary Channel will show promotions for Taha’s film. She is currently editing the two parts. The first part will be entitled “Wara El Shams or “Beyond the Sun , while the other will be entitled “Al Khoof or “The Fear, Mohamed told The Daily Star Egypt.
He added that the court should not charge Taha for her work, but rather examine some of the cases of alleged abuse highlighted in the documentary.
“One of the cases presented in the documentary is a torture case that is being overseen in the courts now and has already been condemned by human rights groups. They should study those cases first before accusing her of something that I believe doesn’t exist, said Mohamed.
Hussein Abdel Ghani, Al-Jazeera’s bureau chief in Cairo, said he has no comments on the legal aspect of the case, but believes Taha worked with utmost concern for media ethics in her documentary.
“Taha was highly professional in shooting the documentary. We never wished that things would escalate to this extent and always hoped that the relationship between the authorities and media would be based on mutual respect and concern for freedom of media and expression, said Abdel Ghani, who attended the court session in solidarity with Taha.
Ahmed Ghazy, a lawyer in the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, said the Court delayed the trial to allow the prosecution time to present the confiscated footage and prepare a case.
In an earlier interview with The Daily Star Egypt, a high ranking police official at the interior ministry said Taha had arrived in Cairo to work on a documentary about Egyptian arts and crafts but that it was later discovered she had been working on alleged police abuse and torture, which the Egyptian Press Office had not approved.
He said the confiscated tapes contained footage of mock torture scenes, including a video of a woman tied upside down and reportedly confessing to murder, which he said had been faked by Taha and her documentary film crew.
Authorities have confiscated the 50 tapes, which were all examined by experts to prove the fabrication, the official added.
Definitely, this case is about damaging Egypt s reputation through fabricating such torture scenes, he claimed.