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Actor acquitted in Facebook libel case

(ANHRI/IFEX) - The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) welcomes the ruling of the Omraneya misdemeanours appeals court as it acquitted Hisham Bahaa El Din, a member of the actors' union, of insult and libel in a case filed against him by the leader of the union. The case related to an opinion piece that El Din posted on Facebook criticising the union board's performance. ANHRI's legal aid unit represented the defendant and the acquittal ruling was issued on 31 July 2010.

On 15 May, the Omraneya misdemeanours court sentenced El Din to two weeks in prison, with bail set at 10,000 Egyptian pounds (approx. US$1800) to be paid in order to suspend execution of the sentence. El Din and ANHRI's lawyers appealed the ruling. On 31 July, after the presentation of arguments by ANHRI's Legal Aid Unit for Freedom of Expression and the submission of a defence memorandum, the court decided to reject both the criminal and civil charges against El Din, ruling that there were illegalities in the proceedings and binding the plaintiff to pay all expenses in the case.

Rawda Ahmed, the director of ANHRI's Legal Aid Unit for Freedom of Expression, said, "We knew right from the start that it was a malicious complaint that the union leader had submitted associated with competing with Hisham in union elections. We were confident of an acquittal at the first hearing, but the first instance verdict was unexpected. Then we obtained the acquittal on appeal."

ANHRI welcomed the acquittal in this, the first case involving insult and libel associated with an article posted on Facebook. The ruling is supportive of online social networks, which have made it possible for all individuals to exercise their right to express themselves.

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