Egypt editor has sentence reduced

Ibrahim Eissa is appealing against last year's conviction for insulting the president.

    Eissa was convicted of insulting the Egyptian
    president in one of his weeklies
    Eissa, also editor of Sawt al-Umma weekly, told AFP shortly before his appeal was to go before a judge: "There is a state of madness against freedom of expression and opinion in Egypt." 
     
    Said Abdullah, Eissa's lawyer, was also sentenced to a year in jail.
     
    "The law states that the editor-in-chief is not responsible," Eissa said.
     
    "This is the idea that we are building our defence on and the notion that it is a political verdict and an attempt against Dustour."
     
    Fast track
     
    The original suit against Eissa was filed by a private citizen on behalf of the president and, in contrast to the generally relaxed pace of Egyptian justice, the case was concluded almost immediately.
     
    "The case went in front of the court on a Monday and two weeks later I was sentenced to a year in prison," Eissa said.

    Mubarak's critics say press freedom is under
    relentless attack in Egypt [AFP]

    "It was maybe one of the fastest court cases ever witnessed in Egypt."
     
    The editor, who was not jailed pending the outcome of his appeal, has long been known for his confrontational style of journalism and repeated criticism of the government since the mid-1990s.
     
    He noted that his case takes place in an environment of prosecutions against bloggers and opposition leaders.
     
    "This comes at the same time Western pressure on the Egyptian regime is disappearing," Eissa said, crediting US pressure after attacks on the US in 2001 for allowing a brief opening in the Egyptian press scene.
     
    "The Egyptian regime is now trying to change the constitution to open the door to the candidacy of Gamal Mubarak and that's why it is trying to destroy any pockets of opposition."
     
    Gamal Mubarak is the Egyptian president's son.
     
    Last Thursday, an Egyptian court sentenced Karim Amer, a blogger, to four years in prison for insulting Islam and the president on an internet site, while opposition politicians such as Ayman Nur and Talaat Sadat have also been jailed.
     
    Online repression
     
    Loose libel laws in Egypt make it easy for journalists to be sued and imprisoned, something the president promised to address in 2004. Eissa says he is a target for attacks because he runs one of the highest selling weeklies in the country.
     
    The CPJ, in a statement released on February 27, said: "To date, Mubarak has failed to deliver on a highly publicised February 2004 promise to journalists that he would eliminate prison penalties against journalists in Egypt.
     
    "The Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights documented 85 criminal court cases brought against journalists from February 2004 to July 2006. Most of those prosecuted had written about official corruption."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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