Egypt sentences head of journalists’ syndicate to two years in jail
Egyptian journalists take part in a protest outside the Syndicate of Journalists in Cairo on May 3, 2016, on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day. (AFP/File)
A Cairo misdemeanor court sentenced on Saturday, the Chairman of Egypt's Press Syndicate Yehia Kalash and two other board members — Gamal Abdel-Reheem and Khaled El-Balshy — to two years in prison for harbouring fugitives inside the syndicate's headquarters.
The verdict can still be appealed and the court set bail at EGP10,000 for each defendant.
The verdict was issued in absentia, as the trio abstained from appearing in court.
Commenting on the verdict, in front of the syndicate's headquarters, high board member Khalid El-Balshy told reporters that the syndicate will appeal the verdict, but in the meantime the verdict "won't distract us from the issues of journalists' rights and liberties."
"We still have battles to fight for the rights of the journalists, especially the detained ones, as well as the press draft law [currently debated in parliament]," El-Balshy added.
El-Balshy also said that the syndicate is currently working on increasing journalists' salaries in the light of current economic conditions amid the flotation of the Egyptian pound.
Tens of journalists gathered in front of the Journalists' Syndicate early Saturday ahead of the verdict and to decide on their next steps. A number of the syndicate's high board members went to the courthouse to hear the verdict.
Journalists Mahmoud El-Sakka and Amr Badr were among many ordered arrested ahead of the 25 April protests against the Egyptian-Saudi Red Sea island maritime border agreement. Badr and El-Sakka were arrested inside the Journalists' Syndicate premises. They were later released on bail pending trial.
Kalash, Abdel-Reheem and El-Balshy are also facing charges of spreading false news about the police raid on the syndicate's headquarters 1 May that resulted in the arrest of the two journalists. A verdict session is yet to be set for this second charge.
By El-Sayed Gamal El-Din and Hadeer El-Mahdawy
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