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EOHR calls for immediate release of website editor

(EOHR/IFEX) - 28 June 2010 - On 27 June, the El-Saf public prosecutor summoned Sherif Abd El Hamid, an activist and editor-in-chief of El Saf website, for an investigation based on a report submitted against him by the member of parliament for El-Saf. In the complaint submitted to the Ministry of Interior's Internet Information Department, which was registered as an "economic misdemeanour", the editor was accused of libel and defamation.

The charges presented by the public prosecutor related to articles published on the editor's website in May and June 2010 which were critical of the member of parliament, saying he was responsible for the low living and service standards in the El-Saf Center-Giza governorate and that he failed to provide the inhabitants of the area with adequate services. Abd El Hamid was questioned for three hours, during which time the editor's defense lawyer was not allowed access to the report that had been submitted.

The prosecution issued its decision and allowed for Abd El Hamid's release on bail in the amount of 1,000 L.E. (approx. US$175). The editor, however, refused to pay the bail amount saying that his actions were within the scope of freedom of opinion and expression guaranteed by the Constitution and international covenants on human rights, adding that the articles he published fell within the limits of allowable criticism.

The prosecutor in charge then transferred the editor's case to the night duty prosecutor to make a decision regarding his refusal to pay bail. A decision was made to hold the editor in custody for four days pending further investigation. Abd El Hamid subsequently began a hunger strike at the El-Saf police station to protest his detention.

EOHR calls for Abd El Hamid's immediate release in compliance with rights guaranteed under the Egyptian Constitution and international covenants on human rights.

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