[JURIST] Egypt's Abbaseyya Appeals Court on Sunday upheld [Daily News Egypt report] the conviction of the former editor of weekly newspaper al-Dustour [media website, in Arabic] for spreading "rumors" about the health of Egyptian President Hosny Mubarak [official profile] in an August 2007 newspaper report. Ibrahim Eissa [al-Ahram profile] originally faced a maximum sentence of three years in jail when his trial began [JURIST report] in Cairo in October 2007, but his sentence has since been reduced to six and now two months despite objections [JURIST report] by prosecutors. Rights groups continue to protest his prosecution [AI release], and Eissa's lawyers are seeking to have the sentence further postponed until a final appeal of the conviction is heard. In June 2006, Eissa was sentenced [JURIST report] to one year in prison for publishing a separate report critical of Mubarak, but an appeals court reduced the sentence to a $4,000 fine. AP has more.
In recent months, public critics of Egyptian government policies have been the target of multiple lawsuits for publicly discussing sensitive issues. In August, the US State Department [official website] criticized [press release] Egypt's sentencing [JURIST report] of rights activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim [professional profile] to two years in prison for defaming the country. In October 2007 , two journalists were convicted of libel in absentia [JURIST report] for writing a story about an illegal land transaction involving the Ministry of Religious Endowments at a secret auction. Under Egyptian law, citizens may file lawsuits against individuals who make statements that harm society, and the accused can face criminal punishment if found guilty. Mubarak previously pledged to decriminalize press offenses [JURIST report] in Egypt, but has yet to do so.