Libel case withdrawn
Judge Mahmoud Seddiq Borham, who vowed to defend his reputation to the end when accused of colluding in vote rigging, ends his lawsuit, reports Mona El-Nahhas
The Cairo Criminal Court formally dropped the libel case filed against Wael El-Ibrashi, executive editor-in- chief of the independent Sawt Al-Umma, Hoda Abu Bakr, a journalist on the same publication, Abdel-Rehim El-Shami, managing editor of the banned Islamist-leaning Afaq Arabia and Gamal Tageddin, a council member of the Bar Association, last Thursday. The decision, seen by many as a victory for press freedom, came after lawyers for the plaintiff, Mahmoud Seddiq Borham, informed the court their client had decided to withdraw his suit.
The libel writ against El-Ibrashi and his three co- defendants was issued last June. The three journalists were accused of publishing a list of the initials of judges who, reportedly, colluded with the authorities in falsifying the results of last year's parliamentary elections. The initials of Borham, who supervised the poll in the Nabaruh constituency, Daqahliya Governorate, were included. Tageddin faced charges of providing the journalists with the list during a press conference held at the Bar Association, following last year's poll.
Borham, who claimed that his reputation had been tarnished by the inclusion of his initials on the list, said when he filed the lawsuit he would pursue his detractors to the bitter end.
Talking to the media following the withdrawal of the case, Borham said that in filing the lawsuit he had been seeking rehabilitation. "So an apology was enough for me to stop litigation procedures and drop the whole issue," he claimed.
While El-Ibrashi stresses that neither he nor his defence team has offered any kind of apology to Borham, the claimant insists the prelude El-Ibrashi's lawyers presented at the beginning of the proceedings, expressing the defendants' appreciation of the judiciary, was enough for him.
Borham's sudden change of heart, though, is likely to be connected to the Court of Cassation's recent ruling that the election results in Nabaruh constituency should be annulled.
"Today's victory should not distract us from the task of revealing the extent of corruption and vote-rigging," El-Ibrashi told reporters following the dismissal of the case. "It's time to open the file of rigged elections and demand that those suspected of complicity in falsifying votes be tried," El-Ibrashi said.
Mahmoud Mekki, a leading reformist judge, says that judges will soon press for the opening of investigations into those members of the judiciary responsible for supervising constituencies in which the Court of Cassation has found evidence of malpractice.
Borham, says Mekki, had no choice but to withdraw his lawsuit after the court annulled the elections results at his constituency. "Acting differently would not have been in his interests."
Mekki and Hesham Bastawisi, another pro-reform judge, were referred last May to a disciplinary court on charges of violating judicial rules by leaking the same "black list" of judges to the press. The claimant was Borham.
The trial of the two judges ended with Mekki being acquitted and Bastawisi receiving a reprimand. Mekki saw last week's ruling as offering clear evidence that Bastawisi was wronged.
On 27 December the Gammaliya Misdemeanour Court is due to hear a lawsuit filed by a member of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) against the editors in-chief of four independent and opposition newspapers.
The plaintiff accuses the four -- El-Ibrashi, Ibrahim Eissa of the independent Al-Dostour, Adel Hammouda of Al-Fagr and Abdel-Halim Qandil of Al-Karama -- of publishing stories libeling the president and his family, the prime minister and the interior minister.