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Editor previously sentenced to prison granted presidential pardon

(EOHR/IFEX) - The following is a 8 October 2008 EOHR press release:

EOHR Welcomes the presidential pardon on Issa's imprisonment sentence

EOHR welcomes the presidential pardon granted by President Gamal Mubarak for Ibrahim Issa, editor-en-chief of "Al Dostour" newspaper. The pardon was issued on 6 October 2008, after Issa was sentenced to two months in prison by Boulaque Misdemeanors Appeal Court in the case that was known as the "President's health".

The presidential pardon came at the same time when Issa and three other editors-in-chief are facing one year of imprisonment in a separate case. That case is now before the Court of Appeal and the next session is scheduled for Saturday 11 October 2008.

It is worth mentioning that Issa was first sentenced by a misdemeanour court on 26 March to six months in prison for "publishing false information and rumours" about Mubarak's health, according to Articles 171 and 188 of the Penal Code. The sentence was later reduced to two months. Issa was first indicted by the High State Security Prosecutor's Office on 5 September 2007, on allegations of "propagating false news and rumours causing a general security disturbance and harming the public interest" and "intentionally publishing false news that may harm public safety." The indictment was in connection with articles concerning the health of President Mubarak published by Issa between 28 and 30 August 2007.

EOHR welcomes the presidential pardon, but at the same time it stresses its demands to not apply the criminal law to punish journalists. EOHR urges the Egyptian authorities to drop all the charges remaining against the journalists. The Egyptian state should refrain from using the Penal Code to criminalise freedom of expression and freedom of the press. The government must abide by its international obligations as a signatory of international documents related to freedom of expression, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and as outlined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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