Reporters Without Borders hails the decision by a criminal court in the Cairo suburb of Gizeh on 21 November to acquit Allam Abdel Ghaffar, a reporter for the daily Youm7, of charges of disseminating false information and forging documents.
At a hearing on 24 October, the court’s prosecutor had called for 15-year jail sentence for Ghaffar, who was never given a chance to defend himself in court.
Reporters Without Borders sent an open letter to justice minister Mamdouh Mohhieddeen Mari on 24 October describing the charges as baseless and the sentence as disproportionate, and calling for the prosecution to be withdrawn. (More information: http://en.rsf.org/egypt-journalist-gets-15-year-jail-28-10-2010,38688.html).
Journalist gets 15-year jail sentence after illegal trial
Reporters Without Borders sent an open letter today to justice minister Mamdouh Mohieddine Mari urging him to ensure that journalist Allam Abdel Ghaffar’s conviction is quashed. Ghaffar was sentenced last weekend to 15 years in prison on charges of disseminating false information and forging documents. He was unaware that the trial was taking place.
Mr. Mamdouh Mohy Al Din Marey
Minister of Justice
Magles El Shaab Street
Paris, 27 October 2010
Dear Justice Minister,
Reporters Without Borders, an international press freedom organisation, would like to draw your attention to the case of Allam Abdel Ghaffar, a journalist who was sentenced to 15 years in prison by a court in the Cairo suburb of Gizeh on 23 October.
Mr. Ghaffar wrote an investigative report about alleged irregularities at VACSERA, a manufacturer of vaccines and biological products, that was published in the weekly Al-Yom Al-Sabi on 30 March. The newspaper issued a correction at once when it emerged that documents that Mr. Ghaffar had used to support the report’s allegations were forged.
Mr. Ghaffar had been unable to verify the authenticity of the documents and their provenance in the absence of a legislative framework clearly regulating access to information and its circulation. The real crime was the forging of the documents (whatever the purpose), not the unintentional dissemination of false information based on them.
Moreover, the general principles of law have not been respected in this case. No account was taken of the right of defence. Unaware that the trial was taken place, Mr. Ghaffar was unable to hire a lawyer to defend himself. The verdict and sentence were issued in his absence.
The principle of proportionality between offence and penalty was nor respected either. Found guilty of a crime for which he was not responsible, Mr. Ghaffar was given a 15-year sentence although the relevant jurisprudence establishes a five-year sentence for proven cases of deliberate dissemination of false information.
In view of the disproportionate nature of the sentence and the serious irregularities that marked the trial, Reporters Without Borders urges you to use your power to have Mr. Ghaffar’s conviction quashed.
We thank you in advance for the attention you give to this request.
cc: Attorney General Abdel Maguid Mahmoud