Cairo Criminal Court sentenced Al-Shaab Editor-in-Chief Magdy Hussein and one of the newspaper’s journalists to three years in prison for publishing content judged to have defamed Supreme Constitutional Court judges, MENA reported.
The court also imposed a fine of LE10,000 on each of the defendants and ordered that all issues that contain the libelous content be confiscated.
The accusation of defamation pertains to a report published in the privately owned Al-Shaab newspaper in June 2013 that accused several figures – including former Justice Minister Ahmed al-Zend, former Public Prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmoud and members of the Supreme Constitutional Court – of illegally acquiring land.
On its website, Al-Shaab issued a statement affirming that neither Hussein, who is also the leader of the Islamist Istiqlal Party, nor journalist Morsi al-Adham was informed of the court date or the complaint filed against him.
The newspaper’s statement also contends that Hussein contacted those profiled in the report, providing them with the right to respond; however, they declined to comment.
Hussein was arrested in July 2014 during a mass crackdown ahead of the one-year anniversary of the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi wherein several other leading members of the Istiqal Party and Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated National Alliance Supporting Legitimacy were also detained.
While there was an order issued for his release in March 2016, Hussein remained in custody after a Cairo criminal court upheld the eight-year prison sentence that was delivered to him a year earlier in absentia on charges of using religion to promote an extremist ideology and to harm national unity, and of disseminating false news to disrupt national peace.
In a statement, Hussein’s family claimed that he had been held in the Heliopolis Police Station in preparation for his release but that he was prevented from attending his hearing to appeal the eight-year sentence, which prompted the judge to uphold it.
In January 2016, Al-Shaab journalist Hamdy Mokhtar was sentenced to three years in jail alongside three other journalists on charges of disseminating false information and membership in a banned organization.
The journalists were arrested while reporting outside the Zeinhom morgue on July 1, where they say they were reporting on the deaths of nine Muslim Brotherhood leaders that were fatally shot by police forces in a 6th of October City apartment on the same day.
In its latest report, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) ranked Egypt second only to China among countries that have jailed journalists, having documented 23 journalists currently in Egyptian prisons, eight of whom were imprisoned in 2015.