Thursday,19 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1375, (4-10 January 2018)
Thursday,19 July, 2018
Issue 1375, (4-10 January 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Guilty of insulting judiciary

Jail terms and hefty fines were imposed on defendants who insulted the judiciary, reports Mona El-Nahhas

 

Abdel-Fattah

After 22 sessions, Cairo Criminal Court on 30 December sentenced 30 defendants, including former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, to three years each in the case publicly known as “insulting the judiciary”. Twenty-five defendants faced accusations of offending the judiciary in separate incidents dating back to 2012 and 2013. The remaining five were each fined LE30,000.

The defendants faced charges of “insulting judges by publishing, giving statements to TV channels and writing on social media networks, and in statements that tarnish the image of courts and judiciary, tarnish judges’ prestige and spread hatred and contempt for judges”.


Al-Katatni

Most of the defendants were accused of criticising the performance of judges assigned to hearing cases of public opinion. The criticism was in the form of statements, speeches or tweets attributed to the defendants.

Regarding the civil lawsuit filed by the Judges Club chairman, the court ordered each of the defendants, with the exception of media anchor Tawfik Okasha and Wafdist Mahmoud Al-Saqqa, to pay LE1 million as temporary compensation to the club chairman. Morsi must pay another LE1 million as temporary compensation to judge Ali Al-Nemr. In a televised speech broadcast in June 2013 when he was president, Morsi referred to Al-Nemr as “a forger judge still sitting on the judiciary bench”.

Since he was ousted in 2013, Morsi has been tried in several cases. Last September he received life for espionage. In October 2016, he was sentenced to 20 years in the “Al-Ittihadeya presidential palace” case. Last May, he was included on a terrorism list via a final court ruling.


Sultan

Although nearly half of the defendants are Islamists, others have leftist, liberal and Nasserist affiliations. The defendants include lawyers, journalists, political activists, former MPs and a judge.

The list of defendants includes former Muslim Brotherhood (MB) Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, MB leaders Sobhi Saleh, Mohamed Al-Beltagi and Saad Al-Katatni and Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya leader Assem Abdel-Maged. The list also includes former MPs Mustafa Al-Naggar, Amr Hamzawi and Hamdi Al-Fakharani. Former deputy chief justice of the Cassation Court Mahmoud Al-Khodeiri, political activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah, leftist lawyer Amir Salem and the chief editor of Sawt Al-Umma newspaper Abdel-Halim Kandil are also among the defendants.

Al-Khodeiri was charged with insulting the judiciary after accusing a number of judges of being involved in rigging the 2005 and 2010 parliamentary polls in favour of the then ruling National Democratic Party. Abdel-Fattah was accused of using “unseemly words” in a tweet to describe the judiciary while commenting on the 2011 NGO foreign funding case. Hamzawi was also accused of criticising a court ruling in the same case, calling it “politicised”.


Al-Khodeiri

This week’s verdicts are first-degree rulings which can be contested at the Court of Cassation within 60 days. The court may accept the appeal if it views the ruling as being marred by a misinterpretation of the law. “By means of the latest amendments of the Criminal Procedures Law, the Court of Cassation — in case the appeal is accepted — will hear the case itself instead of ordering a re-trial before a criminal court,” said legal expert Shawki Al-Sayed.

On the implications of the ruling, rights lawyer Negad Al-Borai said any would-be appeal does not halt implementation of the ruling. “Defendants against whom jail terms were passed should be arrested. The same goes for those fined LE30,000 unless they prove they cannot afford to pay the fine,” he said. As for compensation, the Judges Club chairman has the right to confiscate assets of the defendants to receive compensation, according to Al-Borai.  

Out of the 25 defendants, eight have been released, six are abroad while 11 are already serving prison sentences in unrelated cases.

The case started in 2012, during the rule of the MB, when the then justice minister Mahmoud Mekki delegated the Cairo Appeals Court chief justice to investigate complaints accusing a number of newspapers and media outlets of insulting the judiciary in press articles and TV programmes. In 2013, investigators added the names of new defendants to the case, including that of Morsi and leading members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood while dropping accusations levelled at others.  

The defendants were referred to criminal court in January 2014 after a two-year investigation. The trial was first held in May 2015.

Islamist lawyer Montasser Al-Zayat, against whom a jail term was passed, said he will take all the legal measures to contest the ruling at the Cassation Court. He said he was “dead sure” of getting a ruling proving his innocence.

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