CAIRO, Aug 23, 2012 (AFP)
CAIRO, Aug 23, 2012 (AFP)
Egyptian editor Islam Afifi, who is facing charges of spreading false news and was remanded in custody on Thursday, will be freed on orders from President Mohamed Morsi, his spokesman said.
“Al-Dustour chief editor Islam Afifi will be released according to the (presidential) decree,” which scraps preventive detention in the case of publishing crimes, said Morsi’s spokesman, Yasser Ali.
This is the first time Morsi, who was inaugurated as president on June 30 and stripped the military of legislative powers in August, issues a decree with the force of law, said Ali, quoted on the official MENA news agency.
The prosecutor general confirmed Afifi would be released in line with the presidential decree without specifying when.
Earlier on Thursday, a judge at the Giza Criminal Court in greater Cairo ordered Afifi held until his next hearing, which was set for September 16, pending investigations over charges that he had “insulted Morsi,” MENA said.
Afifi, editor of the small independent Al-Dustour newspaper, is the first journalist to go on trial since the overthrow of veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak in February last year.
Speaking to AFP before he was remanded in custody, Afifi said that the trial was “political” and the charges against him, which also include inciting disorder, “politically motivated.”
“This trial will be a real test of one of the core demands of the Egyptian revolution which was for freedom of expression,” he said.
The Egyptian Press Syndicate, The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights and Reporters Without Borders all slammed the court’s decision to hold Afifi in custody and pressed for his immediate release.
“The judicial authorities are trampling on the desire for freedom that the Egyptian people expressed during the 2011 and 2012 protests,” said Reporters Without Borders, urging he be set free.
The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights said that his trial “runs counter to the new Egypt which has an elected president and where there is a commitment to respect public liberties.”
Afifi’s case and that of television boss Tawfiq Okasha, accused of “incitement to murder” of the president, has also prompted Washington to voice concern about press freedoms in post-Mubarak Egypt.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said last week that the prosecutions ran counter to the spirit of last year’s revolution.
“Freedom of the press, freedom of expression are fundamental tenets of vibrant, strong democracies. They are part and parcel of what the Egyptian people went into the streets for,” she said.
Okasha, who owns the private channel Al-Faraeen on which he hosts a controversial talk show, is known to be staunchly anti-Islamist and opposed to Morsi.
Thursday’s hearing came on the eve of protests against Morsi called by secular activists.
It also came after the president got the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated upper house of parliament to name new editors-in-chief for state media that had been hostile to him and the once-banned Islamist movement.
Several independent newspapers published blank editorial columns on August 9 to denounce the Muslim Brotherhood’s encroachment on press freedoms.
The authorities on August 12 ordered copies of Al-Dustour seized after complaints that they contained remarks deemed insulting to Morsi, a move Afifi denounced as an attack on press freedoms.