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Al-Jazeera journalist sentenced to prison for exposing torture

(HRW/IFEX) - The following is a Human Rights Watch media advisory:

Egypt: Al-Jazeera Journalist Sentenced to Prison for Exposing Torture

Cairo, Wednesday, May 2, 2007 - A criminal court in Cairo today sentenced Huwaida Taha Mitwalli, a journalist for Al-Jazeera and the London-based daily Al-Quds al-Arabi, to six months in prison on charges of "possessing and giving false pictures about the internal situation in Egypt that could undermine the dignity of the country" in connection with an Al-Jazeera documentary she made about torture in Egypt. The court also fined her 20,000 Egyptian pounds (US$3,518). An Egyptian national, Taha is currently free on bail in Qatar, pending appeal. ( For background on her case, please see: http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/01/17/egypt15063.htm )

Human Rights Watch said that the sentence, delivered the day before World Press Freedom Day, is emblematic of Egypt's worsening crackdown on freedom of expression:

On April 14, security officers arrested television journalist and blogger 'Abd al-Monim Mahmud at Cairo airport as he tried to board a plane for Sudan, where he was to work on a television story about human rights abuses in the Arab world for the London-based Al-Hiwar satellite channel ( http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/04/19/egypt15739.htm );

On March 12, the Alexandria Court of Appeals upheld the four-year prison sentence against Abd al-Karim Nabil Sulaiman, a blogger who had criticized Islam and President Hosni Mubarak ( http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/02/22/egypt15379.htm );

On March 20, secular activist and blogger Mohammad al-Sharqawi - himself a victim of police torture - returned home to find that his laptop, which he said contained an unreleased video depicting police abuse, had been stolen. Cash and other valuables in the apartment were untouched ( http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/03/19/egypt15521.htm ).

Fadi Al-Qadi, Middle East advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, and Elijah Zarwan, Human Rights Watch's Egypt researcher, are available to the media to comment about the verdict.

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