Sinai journalist Mohamed Sabry was handed a six month suspended prison sentence on Sunday after a drawn-out military trial in Ismailia that faced multiple delays.
An Arish-based freelance photojournalist and an activist against military trials for civilians, Sabry was arrested on 4 January near the border city of Rafah. He was reporting on the soldiers killed at the border crossing in August. The military prosecution immediately referred him to a military misdemeanour court. Sabry was charged with “entering a prohibited military zone and filming a military facility.”
With a suspended sentence, Sabry will not spend any time in prison, but the conviction will be on his record and he will be on probation. He could face prison if he is charged with a similar offense.
Though he maintains his innocence, Sabry said that he accepts the sentence.
“At the time of [my arrest] last January, I wasn’t ok if they sentenced me for anything. I’m not guilty,” said Sabry. “But after what’s happened in Egypt these past days and past months, I’m now ok with the verdict.
“A lot of journalists went to jail. A lot of journalists were killed in police stations, some killed doing their job. I feel ok compared to the general situation in Egypt.”
Originally scheduled for March 2013, the verdict and sentencing in Sabry’s case was postponed numerous times.
Another Sinai journalist received a similar sentence in early October. ONTV and Al-Masry Al-Youm reporter Ahmed Abu Deraa was arrested 4 September and charged with intentionally spreading false information about the military.
Deraa was also tried in a military court in Ismailia and received a suspended sentence of six months in prison and a fine of EGP 200.
The Egyptian military has come under fire since the 25 January Revolution for subjecting thousands of civilians to military trials. Human rights groups both in Egypt and abroad have called for civilians convicted under military courts to be retried in civil courts.
Attorney Mahienour El-Massry, an activist fighting against military trials for civilians, said that over 12,000 Egyptian civilians have faced military tribunals since January 2011, and 15 to 20 civilians are currently facing execution at the hands of the military.