May 9, 2012 (Alarabiya with agencies)
May 9, 2012 (Alarabiya with agencies)
An Egyptian court upheld on Tuesday a one-year prison sentence for prominent activist Asmaa Mahfouz for assaulting a witness in an ongoing trial over a deadly clash between soldiers and Christians, as media rights groups condemned the Egyptian army for assaulting and arresting journalists.
Mahfouz must also pay bail and a fine totaling 2,000 Egyptian pounds ($332) according to the initial sentencing in March this year, state news agency MENA and her lawyers said.
She is in the United States and was unable to attend the sentencing, her lawyers said, according to AFP.
Mahfouz is expected to appeal the sentence after paying bail, MENA said.
The Egyptian rights group, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, condemned the sentencing as a “throwback to politicized sentences against opposition activists.”
It said Mahfouz was accused of “beating” the man outside the state prosecutor’s office. She denies the charge.
Judicial officials were not immediately available to comment, or to provide further details on the case.
Mahfouz shot to fame when she posted a video on YouTube urging Egyptians to protest against president Hosni Mubarak before he was toppled in February 2011 in a popular uprising.
Since then Mahfouz, whom the European Parliament awarded the Sakharov prize for freedom of thought, has targeted the military rulers who took charge after Mubarak’s ouster.
The military had said it would try her for incitement over her writings on the Internet but dropped the case.
She was investigated for involvement in an October clash between Coptic Christian protesters and soldiers that killed more than 25 people, mostly Christians, but no charges were filed.
Rights groups condemn assaults on journalists
Meanwhile, two media rights groups condemned the Egyptian army for assaulting and arresting journalists who were covering a recent violent crackdown on antimilitary protests in Cairo.
The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said Tuesday it recorded 32 attacks on journalists during clashes last Friday in the Egyptian. It said at least 20 reporters were assaulted or beaten and 11 injured, The Associated Press reported.
The New-York based Committee to Protect Journalists, meanwhile, urged Egypt’s ruling military council to investigate allegations that two journalists were “viciously beaten up by soldiers.”
More than 300 people, including reporters, were detained during Friday’s violence, which broke out when thousands of protesters marched toward the Defense Ministry demanding the country’s military rulers step down immediately. It was the largest security roundup following protests.
At least nine of the journalists who were arrested have been released, pending investigation by military prosecutors into allegations of attacking troops and disturbing public order. More than a dozen female protesters, and a similar number of students, have also been released pending investigation. They could all face military trials.
A military official said those who have been released will be called in for further questioning, explaining that the journalists had insufficient documents because they were not members of the press syndicate. He was speaking on condition of anonymity in line with military regulations.
The military took over from longtime leader Mubarak, but its rule has been marred by periodic violence and angry protests over its management of the transition and continuation of many of Mubarak’s repressive practices.
Journalists have often been the target of beating and harassment while covering the protests. Reporters Without Borders said in a report released earlier this month that the military is still using “the same old methods of censorship and intimidation” as the ousted regime.
In the May 4 protests, Belgian photojournalist Virginie Nguyen, who works for the local English online daily Egypt Independent, was injured during the protest when a rock hit her face. At the hospital for treatment, an army officer shouted at her and asked her to hand over her camera.
She told the newspaper in a video recording that she handed over her camera, but the officers still “decided to arrest me and the woman with me.”
She said she was taken to an army hospital, where she was roughed up, and then to another hospital where she refused to have surgery. She was later transferred to a security office for questioning, and then let go.
“They erased all the pictures of the soldiers,” she said. “I was lucky they didn’t take my camera… It is not this that will make me stop taking pictures.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists said that two other journalists, Ahmed Ramadan and Islam Abul Ezz, were both brutalized while in military custody, and demanded an investigation into the allegations.
The two journalists, who work for the privately-owned al-Badil online daily, said they were first attacked by thugs, then handed to the military police who allegedly beat them up in custody, according to al-Badil. The publication posted pictures of the two journalists, their bodies covered in bruises. It said they were released after two days.
“These reports depict an anything-goes atmosphere in which military authorities act with impunity,” said CPJ spokesman Mohammed Abdul Dayem, AP reported. “The council must send a clear message that it will not tolerate such a climate.”
According to Reporters Without Borders, several TV crews were attacked by the military police, who smashed their mobile phones, confiscated cameras and deleted footage and photographs.