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Civil servant sentenced to three years in prison for writing poem

The misdemeanors court in Adawa, Menya province has adjourned an appeal of the defamation case against government clerk Mounir Saad Hanna to 18 July 2009.

The case dates back to April 2008, when the police arrested Hanna, a clerk in the education department in Adawa, accusing him of writing a poem defaming the Egyptian president. He was tried without a defense lawyer in violation of the Code of Criminal Procedures and sentenced to three years in jail and bail of 100,000 LE (approximately US$18,000). The poem in question is an unpublished, six-verse, handwritten memo.

ANHRI's legal support unit adopted the case in collaboration with Akram Wahib. The ANHRI team - Hamdy Al Assiouty and Hoda Nasrallah - stated that it seemed Menya province was applying a law of its own. Moreover, none of the so-called offensive verses in the poem were included in the prosecution's report. The heavy-handed ruling of the first instance court was handed down without justification for either Hanna's imprisonment or for the exorbitant bail which he is unable to pay and which will ensure that he remains in jail until the next hearing.

Lawyers with ANHRI's legal support unit fear that individual freedoms will be threatened now that writing memos is a gateway to three years in prison.

ANHRI insists on Hanna's innocence and calls on police and judges in Menya to commit themselves to upholding Egyptian law which, though imperfect, guarantees a minimum of freedom of expression for Egyptians.

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