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Egyptian journalist going on trial for alleged libeling of Foreign Minister

An independent journalist is expected to go on trial for allegedly libeling Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abult Gheit [official website] according to Sunday press reports. Gheit alleges that Hamdi Qandeel insulted him [AFP report] in an article he wrote for the independent daily Shorouk [official website, in Arabic] in which Qandeel analogized statements made by Gheit to garbage leaked from a garbage bag. Qandeel could face prison time or a fine if found guilty.

Qandeel's case does not mark the first time a journalist has gone on trial in Egypt for publishing remarks regarding government officials. In 2007, editors of four Egyptian tabloids were convicted of defaming President Hosni Mubarak and the ruling National Democratic Party [official websites] after publishing criticisms in their respective papers, and were each sentenced to a year in prison [JURIST report] and a fine of 20,000 Egyptian pounds (USD $3,500). In 2009, Egypt's Agouza Appeals Court overturned the editors' prison sentences [JURIST report] but upheld their fines. In 2008, an editor of the weekly al-Dustor newspaper, Ibrahim Eissa, was convicted for spreading "rumors" [JURIST report] about the health of Mubarak in an August 2007 report. Egypt's Abbaseyya Appeals Court upheld the conviction [JURIST report] in 2008. In 2006, Mubarak pledged to decriminalize press offenses [JURIST report].

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