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Website writer charged for "defamation" released; site administrator still detained despite being allowed bail

(HRinfo/IFEX) - HRinfo welcomes today the decision of the Ras Kheima criminal court to free Internet activist Khalid El-Asly without requiring him to post bail following his arrest for defamation over an essay he allegedly wrote on Majan.net. The head of the Ras Kheima medical department filed a lawsuit against El-Asly, accusing the writer of defaming him in the essay.

El-Asly was released after the plaintiff failed to prove any connection between him and the essay entitled "Unequal employment". The court has adjourned the hearing for the case to 30 August.

"The defendant didn't produce any evidence to incriminate Khalid El-Asly - why then he was detained for four days? Would activists be facing detention in Emirates on grounds of mere suspicion? In addition to that, assuming that that essay was written by El-Asly, it doesn't contain any defamatory remarks about the plaintiff. In countries that respect freedom of expression, essays written in much stronger language than that of the essay wouldn't have brought upon the writer any accusation of defamation," said HRinfo Executive Director Gamal Eid.

As for the administrator of Majan.net, Muhamed Shouhi, despite the fact that the court has authorized his release on a bail of 50,000 Dirham (approx. US$13,500), prison officials are refusing to free him as they claim that he is wanted on other counts they refuse to disclose. The appeal hearing is set to take place on 26 August.

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