[JURIST] An Egyptian court on Saturday began the trial of a journalist union leader as well as two board members who were charged with spreading false news and harboring wanted reporters. About a month prior, Union leader Yahya Qalash denounced [AP report] authorities for the arrest of two protesting journalists who sought refuge in the union’s headquarters. Though Qalash initially called for the interior minister’s resignation and a presidential apology, he withdrew his comments later to defuse tensions. Amnesty International [advocacy website] has publicly opposed the trial, accusing the government of cracking down on the freedom of expression and creating a “state of fear.” The defendants have requested postponement and will continue the hearing later this month.
Egypt [BBC profile] has been internationally scrutinized in recent months over allegations of human rights infringements and free speech violations. Last month more than 100 Egyptian demonstrators were convicted [JURIST report] for peacefully assembling without a permit. Three UN rights experts recently urged [JURIST report] the Egyptian government to end its oppressive response towards human rights advocates in the country. In early May an Egyptian court sentenced [JURIST report] six people, including three journalists, to death for allegedly leaking state secrets to Qatar. Last month Egypt’s Court of Cassation overturned the five-year prison sentences of 35 Al-Azhar students, ordering a retrial [JURIST report]. Earlier in April three UN human rights experts urged Egypt to cease its cease [JURIST report] its ongoing crackdown on humans rights defenders and organizations.