Ahram journalist sentenced to a year in prison, chief editor fined LE10,000 for libel

Ahram Gate news portal editor-in-chief Hesham Younes was fined LE10,000, while Ahmed Amer, a journalist with the same publication, was sentenced to one year in prison for publishing false news about former Justice Minister Ahmed al-Zend, reported the privately owned Aswat Masriya on Sunday.

A judge referred both Younis and Amer to criminal court on charges of libel in January.

In a statement to the court, Zend declared that he was surprised when news was published about him selling land owned by the Judges Club to a relative for much less than its actual worth.

Zend was referring to a report written by Amer, which claimed that Ahram Gate had acquired documents proving the sale. The report alleged that the going rate for land in that location should have been LE50,000 per square meter, but was sold to Zend’s wife’s cousin for less than LE18,000 per square meter.

The article also stated that the governorate allocated the land to Judges Club in order for them to build a library, and that the club was not authorized to sell it.

In his testimony, Zend claimed that this report was completely false and publishing it was in violation of the law. He first filed a lawsuit against Amer and Younis in 2014, shortly after the article was published.

The former Justice Minister, who resigned in March after making controversial remarks, has a history of suing journalists and public figures for insulting him.

On July 11, Magdy Hussein, editor-in-chief of the privately owned Al-Shaab newspaper, along with one of the newspaper’s journalists, was sentenced to three years in prison for publishing defamatory content about Zend. The court fined each of the defandants LE10,000 and ordered that all copies of the issue containing libelous content be destroyed.

Zend’s lawsuit against Hussein was based on a report published in Al-Shaab accusing several public figures, including Zend, of illegally acquiring land.

Former head of the Central Auditing Association (CAA), Hesham Geneina, is another public figure who has also fallen afoul of Zend.

In January, Geneina, formerly the country’s top auditor, was ordered to appear in front of the Cairo Court of Appeals for interrorogation after Zend accused him of insulting the judiciary.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi passed a decree in July 2015 giving him the right to remove the heads of oversight and independent committees if they pose a proven threat to national security or fail to carry out their duties. In an interview with Mada Masr, Geneina said he was targeted under this law, which was orchestrated by Zend.

On July 28 of this year, Geneina was sentenced to one year in prison for “disseminating false information” that is “harmful to state institutions and threatens public peace.”

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