Monday, September 29, 2008

Egyptian journalist gets jail for Mubarak reports

By SARAH EL DEEB, Associated Press Writer

An Egyptian appeals court on Sunday upheld a guilty verdict against a newspaper editor who wrote stories questioning the president's health and sentenced him to two months imprisonment.
Ibrahim Eissa, editor of the independent daily al-Dustor, was originally convicted in March and sentenced to six months on charges of reporting and publishing false information that questioned the health of 80-year-old President Hosni Mubarak. The judges at the time ruled that a series of articles he published threatened national stability and caused foreign investors to pull their money out of the country.

Mubarak has been in office for more than a quarter of a century and has no obvious successor, making any speculation about his health a very sensitive topic.

State Security prosecutors appealed the original sentence, arguing it was too light. But on Sunday, the appellate court instead reduced it to two months.

The verdict has been condemned by local and international rights groups, who describe it as part of an ongoing curtailment of freedom of expression in Egypt.

Eissa said he planned to turn himself in and serve his sentence.

"This sentence opens the gates of hell for the Egyptian press," he said in a telephone interview.

"Jail sentences for journalists have now become normal, a reality," Eissa said. "The verdict is dangerous for political life in Egypt. It says it is prohibited to speak about the president. It says political reform is an illusion."

Eissa has in the past run into legal trouble with the Egyptian government. His newspaper is sharply critical of the regime and often breaks political, social and religious taboos.

The government closed it in 1998 for seven years after it published a statement by an Islamist group threatening Coptic Christian businessmen in Egypt. Eissa was convicted in 2006 for libeling Mubarak but only paid a fine.

From Victoria Advocate.

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