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Misdemeanors Court sets hearing for journalist Kamal Murad sentenced in absentia

(ANHRI/IFEX) - The following is a 15 March 2009 ANHRI statement:

ANHRI condemns the arraignment of journalist Kamal Murad, a reporter for "al- Fajr" newspaper. Murad's trial comes in the light of a wider security crackdown against him that has been taking place ever since he managed to communicate with an individual named Emad al-Kabir, and verified that al-Kabir was tortured at a police station.

Murad was sentenced in absentia on 30 December 2008 to six months in prison and to 100 Egyptian pounds (approx. US$17) bail after being charged with insulting a police officer. As the verdict was issued in Murad's absence, it has yet to take effect. According to Egyptian law, Murad has the right to object to this judgment as he was not present to defend himself. A hearing into the verdict issued in absentia was scheduled for 16 March 2009 at the al-Rahmaniyah Misdemeanors Court in Damanhour.

ANHRI believes that what happened to Murad is a violation of his freedom of expression rights and hinders his work as a journalist.

Several police officers arrested Murad on 17 June 2008 as he was covering a story on a group of farmers in the village of Muharam Bek, in al-Rahmaniyah province. Murad had photographed police officers beating a number of farmers in order to coerce them into signing contracts with local landowners. The officers subsequently assaulted Murad, while threatening to throw him in jail. After being detained for three hours, Murad was shocked to find out that he was being charged with "assaulting police officers" and "inciting farmers against the security forces."

Murad had previously published stories on the case against police officer Islam Nabih, who was sentenced to three years in prison for torturing Emad al-Kabir. The officers who attacked Murad referred to him as "the cause of the three-year imprisonment of Officer (Nabih)." ANHRI, along with the Hesham Mubarak Centre for Human Rights and the Arabic Council Supporting Fair Trials, have joined together in Murad's defence.

ANHRI believes that the targeting of Murad by the police is in retaliation for his courageous stand on exposing corruption and torture committed by police officers. As such, the organisation demands that all charges against him be dropped. ANHRI further demands that the authorities safeguard freedom of the press, and freedom of expression and opinion, and that they refrain from cracking down on the media which already face many obstacles and barriers, including the imprisonment of journalists and broadcasters.

Updates the Murad case:

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