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CORRECTION: Court refuses judge's request to block websites, but allows for their censorship and prosecution; investigation of blogger continues

(HRinfo/IFEX) - Please note an error in the HRinfo /IFEX alert dated 21 June 2007. In paragraph seven, it was mistakenly stated that the investigation of blogger "Amr Gharbia" had been suspended and that he had been absolved of a defamation charge, whereas neither is true: he still faces charges and is still under investigation. As well, an incorrect figure was given in paragraph nine: the compensation amount was given in English pounds, but should have been given in Egyptian pounds. A corrected version follows:

There have been promising developments in the case against judge Abdel Fatah Murad, who has filed multiple fabricated charges against the Hisham Mubarak Law Center and HRinfo, as well as bloggers and human rights and news websites, report the law center and HRinfo.

The State Commissioner Committee has released a report on the request by the judge to block 51 human rights and news websites and blogs that allegedly abused the state's dignity and threatened its interests. Rejecting the request on the ground that the judge lacked the authority to invoke such an action, the committee nevertheless accepted the judge's lawsuits against the targeted institutions, but not those against the justice and social liability ministers (see: http://www.openarab.net/issues/2007/issue1 ).

The committee accepted the cooperation between the government and administrators of websites and blogs, finding that they have a shared interest in the lawsuit and have authority over their work, but refused the request by some lawyers to side with the judge, on the ground that they do not have an interest in the case.

It refused to block the websites, though conceding the government's right to omit pages that contain insults against the aggrieved party in the case or his judicial identity.

In response to the report, the court session has been postponed to 8 July 2007.

Meanwhile, police are continuing their investigation into blogger "Amr Gharbia", 2005 winner of the Best Arabic Blog award from"Deutsche Welle". Gharbia is charged with defaming Judge Murad. Police declared that Gharbia's blog included comments insulting to the judge; the comments in question were not ever written by Gharbia himself. He was released upon posting bail of 200 Egyptian pounds (approx. US$35).

In another related matter, the Alexandria Prosecution Office has taken up HRinfo Chair Gamal Eid's demand for an investigation into the judge for violating intellectual property rights. Gamal Eid also called for the lifting of the judge's immunity, so that he will face a fine, if found guilty.

Gamal Eid is also suing the judge, demanding a compensation of 500,000 Egyptian pounds (approx. US$87,000), for violating intellectual property rights. The judge had quoted extensively from HRinfo's report on free expression on the Internet without crediting the source.

"We will be investing in a unit for lawyers to defend freedom of opinion and expression and intellectual property rights," Gamal Eid said. "The Arabic Network has decided to start receiving complaints on violations of intellectual property rights."

The suit will be reviewed in the South Cairo Court of First Instance on 14 July.

A North Cairo court hearing that began on 17 June, on the extortion charge against Ahmed Seif and Gamal Eid, fabricated by judge Murad, was postponed upon a demand by the two accused that the Lawyers' Syndicate be informed of the case before it could proceed further. Gamal Eid's case will resume on 27 June, while Ahmed Seif's will resume on 1 July.

Declaring the promising developments in the case against the judge, HRinfo and the Hisham Mubarak Law Center said that the one thing that gave them the strength to face the judge's fabricated cases against many websites and youth bloggers in Egypt, was that there was no deception on their part.

The case against the judge has changed from that of violating intellectual property rights to a defense for intellectual property rights and freedom of opinion and expression.

In addition, HRinfo and Hisham Mubarak Law Center have uncovered many facts about the case - which they will expose later - that will provide evidence for the prosecution and conviction of the judge. All that is required now is a fair and just investigation.

For more information, see: http://www.hrinfo.net/en/campaigns/2007/pr0426-2.shtml ; http://www.hrinfo.net/en/reports/2007/pr0618.shtml

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