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Following appeal, court exonerates journalist of two offences, but he still faces possible prison term

(MFWA/IFEX) - Lawyers of El Malick Seck, jailed editor-in-chief of "24 Heures Chrono", a Dakar-based daily newspaper, on 12 September 2008 appealed the three-year prison sentence given their client by a court for publishing "false news", "inciting the public" and "public insult".

Media Foundation for West Africa's (MFWA) correspondent reported that Demba Ciré Bathily, lead counsel, who announced the editor's intention, said the sentence was outrageous and violates the journalist's human rights.

The court exonerated the journalist of two other offences of "insulting the head of state", and "possessing illegal documents".

"El Malick Seck is a political prisoner. . . There is a disproportionate punishment in relation to the content of the article that is not even up to three thousand characters . . . (this verdict exposed) the unacknowledged purpose of eliminating El Malick Seck and his newspaper", Ciré Bathily told journalists.

Seck was sentenced to three years' imprisonment and his newspaper was banned from publishing for the next three months. This followed an article in the August issue of "24 Heures Chrono", that linked President Abdoulaye Wade and his son to a case of money laundering from Côte d'Ivoire.

Meanwhile, police personnel of the Criminal Investigation Department on 13 September seized the day's publication, claiming that they were enforcing the court's order. The defence counsel has condemned the police action saying it acted ultra vires, since the matter is still pending in court.

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