CAIRO: The Nozha Misdemeanour court postponed its final ruling in the case of Al Jazeera producer Howayda Taha till May 2, but a documentary which she had produced – and was central to the trial – was not aired.
Ramdan Mohamed, Taha’s husband, says promos of the documentary were aired on Al Jazeera’s documentary channel more than 10 times a day during the last week of March.
He said the documentary was originally scheduled to be broadcast on Tuesday, April 2 at 11:05 pm.
“There are many contradictions happening all the time. Promotions of the documentary were shown almost every hour on Al Jazeera channel and then suddenly they stopped, says Mohamed.
He adds that there might been some interventions and requests from Al Jazeera’s Cairo bureau to stop airing the promotions.
In early January, the Ministry of Interior had charged and briefly detained Howayda Taha, a producer in Al-Jazeera’s newly-launched Documentary Channel, for possession of 50 videotapes that allegedly include simulated torture scenes in Egyptian police stations.
On Jan. 8, Cairo International Airport security prevented the Doha-based producer from boarding a plane for Qatar and confiscated 50 videotapes in her possession, her laptop and some books.
Taha was charged with a violation of Article 80/D in the Penal Code which relates to transgressions which are considered to be threatening the country s national interest.
She was also charged with the possession and transfer of falsified graphics that tarnish Egypt’s reputation and image.
A high ranking police official at the interior ministry told The Daily Star Egypt that 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 included 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 crew.
Ahmed El Ghazy, a lawyer for the case from the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, says Selim El Awwa, the lawyer representing Al Jazeera channel, requested to change the judicial team that has been overseeing the case, but then the defense team agreed to withdraw the request after negotiations with the judge.
“The court rejected 11 requests demanded by the defense team. We requested to discuss some of the witnesses and some officers of the Ministry of Interior who were interviewed by Howayda Taha during here preparation for the documentary.
“The defence also wanted to study all reports written about the case. But, the judge did not approve any of these requests, says El Ghazy.
He added that El Awwa focused in his defense statements on refuting the two main charges brought against Taha – transgressions considered to be threatening to the country s national interest and the possession and transfer of falsified graphics that “tarnish Egypt’s reputation and image .
Both are criminal offenses according to Article 80/D of the Penal Code
El Ghazy expects the May 2 ruling to include a prison sentence that ranges from six months to three years, along with a fine of LE 10,000.
But he adds that the defence team plans to appeal such a ruling.