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Eight new charges brought against editor

(HRinfo/IFEX) - In an unprecedented scene familiar only to those who lived under extinct dictatorships, Ibrahim Essa's trial took place, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information said, raising concerns about the pre-trial procedures that preceded his trial for allegedly publicizing false news about the president's health. Essa is the editor of the independent newspaper "Al-Dostur".

On 1 October 2007, the Aljala court - hosting criminal court proceedings - turned into a battlefield as many lawyers were denied access to the main building, including those who are representing Essa, due to a heavy security presence.

The court astoundingly announced that Essa is held on the account of eight other cases, increasing the total number of cases filed against him to nine.

"It looked like an auction run by the government for those who are willing to file lawsuits against Essa. Seven of these lawsuits were filed by obsequious lawyers who are either members in or have close ties with the ruling party, yet what raised our concerns the most was that one of the lawsuits was filed by a number of lawyers who attended once before the trial of Ayamn Noor, a high profile prisoner of conscience, and attempted to defame his reputation.We are very worried about this move and the motives behind it," the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information said.

The case was adjourned to 24 October pending the calling of the main witnesses - officials from the central bank and two officers from the deputy of state security - who filed the lawsuit against Essa. The next hearing will be held in the fifth compound, in eastern Cairo.

"This massive number of police forces headed by high-ranking officers belonging to every branch of security services in Egypt uncovers the nature of Essa's trial: is it for a publishing-related crime? Or is it a freedom of expression case brought by a state so bent on persecuting the press and taking down every outspoken journalist?" said Gamal Eid, the Executive Director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information.

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