CAIRO: The North Cairo Appeals Court sentenced journalist Magdy Hussein to one year in prison for 14-year-old charges, Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) Director Gamal Eid told Daily News Egypt Wednesday.
Hussein, the former editor-in-chief of El-Shaab, the mouthpiece of the frozen Islamist Labor Party, was about to complete another term in prison, Eid added.
On Feb. 11, 2009, Hussein, also the secretary general of Labor Party, was sentenced by a Military Court to two years in prison for illegally crossing into the Gaza Strip through a tunnel in North Sinai’s Rafah border city, a verdict that could not be appealed.
Following his arrest, Hussein’s wife told Daily News Egypt that he went there “to support the [Palestinian] resistance,” and to “provide aid to the Palestinians.”
Hussein’s defense team recently called for his release after he had spent three quarters of the current sentence. He is supposed to be officially released in February 2011.
“When the lawyers and Hussein’s wife presented the request for his early release, they discovered the unannounced verdict was issued earlier in June,” Eid explained.
The other case dates back to May 1996 when the Cairo Appeals Court fined Hussein LE 15,000 for libeling the son of then Minister of Interior Hassan El-Alfi through a serious of articles published in the same year.
The court order was appealed and the Cassation Court ordered a retrial. But since then the case has been at a standstill.
“The case has [only been looked into] a few months before Hussein’s release because the regime wants him to remain in prison till the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections are over,” Eid argued.
“Usually a cassation court overrules a verdict in favor of the defendant not against him. But this was not the case with Hussein,” he added.
According to Eid, Hussein was a potential candidate in the coming People’s Assembly (PA) poll especially that the verdicts against him were not cases involving a breach of honor. According to election regulations, candidates should not have been convicted in “honor” related cases.
“But the new sentence came to confirm the regime’s and the government’s animosity against him,” Eid said.
Hussein is known for being an outspoken critic of the current regime.
In May 2000, Egypt halted the Labor Party’s political activities, saying it was a threat to national interests. Authorities also froze the party’s publication, El-Shaab.
In February 2004, President Hosni Mubarak promised to abolish jail terms for journalists in publishing cases.
However, the promise has yet to see the light. Since then several journalists have been taken to court and handed down prison sentences, though many of them are suspended.
In June, Wael El-Ebrashi, editor-in-chief of independent Sawt El-Umma newspaper, was referred to the Giza Criminal Court for charges of inciting the public against a new tax bill.
Journalist Samar El-Dawy was also taken to a criminal court for similar charges. Both will stand trial on July 18.
Earlier in May, editors of independent Al-Masry Al-Youm and Al-Youm Al-Sabe’ newspapers were interrogated by prosecutors for publishing the details of a major bribery case in which a high-profile businessman and two State Council judges were allegedly involved.