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IFEX members ANHRI, CIHRS and other groups protest possible imprisonment of activist colleagues

(ANHRI/IFEX) - 29 July 2010 - The Khalifeh court of misdemeanor in the Galaa Court compound in Cairo will proceed on 31 July 2010 with the case filed by citizen Abdel Fattah Murad against Gamal Eid, director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), Ahmed Seif, founder of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, and activist and blogger Amr Gharbeya, accusing them of defamation, public slander and misuse of the internet, the punishment for which may total four years' imprisonment in addition to a fine.

The activists had accused Abdel Fattah Mourad of violating copyrights when he copied tens of pages from a report issued by ANHRI in late 2006 on the freedom of the internet in the Arab world, and published them in his book without reference to the source.

In its previous session on 17 July 2010, the court had postponed the case to 31 July to hear the witnesses and the defense, and to make its decision on the same day. It is to be noted that, contrary to the usual procedure, this case has been processed by three different prosecutions: The north Cairo prosecution, the Khalifeh prosecution and the Cairo appeals prosecution.

The Khalifeh prosecution had accused the activists of the following:

• Formation of associations outside the regulations provided by the law
• Helping other offenders escape justice by not mentioning their names and addresses
• Verbal threat of defamation of citizen Mourad through an intermediary by demanding 50 thousand pounds
• Production of electronic newsletters without informing the governorate or the directorate in writing

The Cairo appeals prosecution recommended the transfer of the case to court and the replacement of the above-mentioned charges with charges of public defamation and slander.

The public prosecutor, on the other hand, maintained the charge of public defamation and slander (punishable by fine), removed the charge of illegal formation of associations and those of helping others escape justice and the production of a newsletter without reporting, reintroduced the charge of threat of defamation (punishable by two years' imprisonment) and added a new accusation of misuse of the internet (punishable by two years' imprisonment).

The public prosecutor ignored the memo of the north Cairo prosecution, which stated that the complaint does not fall within its local mandate and expressed its concern that its investigations may be annulled on this basis.

This is not the first case fabricated against the human rights activists and bloggers. The administrative court ruled in the first case against the request of citizen Mourad to block tens of websites. The latter then appealed in front of the high administrative court, and the case is still in progress. In the second case the court ruled in favor of the activists, rejecting accusations of slander and defamation by citizen Mourad.

We shall not be silenced nor made to close our eyes regarding the state of major human rights violations in Egypt, which is the one real "crime" our colleagues are being tried for.

Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

Non-IFEX member signatories:

Arab Foundation for the Promotion of Civil society and Human Rights
Arab-European Center for Human Rights and International Law
Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
Cairo Center for Development
Dialogue forum for development and human rights
Egyptian Association for Promotion of Community Participation
Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights
Egyptian Federation of young Human Rights Organizations
Egyptian Foundation for the Promotion of Childhood
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
Egyptians against Religious Discrimination
El Haq Center for Democracy and Human Rights
El Nadim Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence
Federation of Arab Human Rights Defenders
Habi center for environmental rights
Hayatt center for legal aid
Hemaya (Protection) center for support of human rights defenders
Mogtamaena (our community) association for development and human rights
Mosawat (Equality) Center for human rights, Port Said
National Foundation for Promotion of Democracy and Human Rights
New Woman Foundation
Technological Center for Human Rights

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