Egypt: Top blogger found not guilty, no jail time
CAIRO: One of Egypt’s top bloggers and anti-torture activist, Wael Abbas, has been found not guilty by a Cairo court on Thursday. The ruling means the blogger will avoid what could have been 6 months in prison. The Egyptian twittersphere was quick to praise the court’s decision, but were concerned that the case had gotten that far in the first place.
“The court found wael abbas not guilty..waiting for the annoucment. Mabrok ya looll – Good!” wrote blogger Demagh Mak as the verdict began to reach the Internet and quickly found its way onto the social networking site Twitter.
Even journalists covering the trial left the court with soidarity t-shirts with Abbas’ face pasted on them. One Cairo-based journalist, Sarah Carr of The Daily News Egypt wrote on her Twitter account, “Left court with my “solidarity with @waelabbas” t-shirt courtesy of shebab 6 april .”
The case was largely seen as a showdown between the government and leading blogger Wael Abbas, who was sentenced last fall to 6 months in prison. Most analysts and observers have argued these charges are trumped up and an effort by Cairo to put Abbas behind bars.
Abbas has been the leading voice in the anti-torture campaign in Egypt, publishing a number of videos on his website that reveal the stark nature of Egyptian police life. His work has seen the government harass him and his family in an effort to force his silence.
“These charges are ridiculous and there is no basis to put Abbas in any position where he would go to jail,” said Amira, a 29-year-old activist and consultant. “What has he done, published information on the horrible police system and torture in Egypt?”
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) – one of Egypt’s leading pro-freedom of expression organizations – expressed its solidarity with the embattled blogger in a Wednesday press release.
The case, they said, “strongly bears a manipulation of law.”
Abbas was sentenced to 6 months in prison last November in absentia after he had attended a conference in Beirut. Shortly before the sentencing, which came as a shock to the Egyptian blogosphere, his mother was attacked in his Cairo home.
“Neither Wael Abbas nor ANHRI lawyers were notified on the case until the moment security forces raided Wael’s home to execute the sentence in December 2009,” ANHRI said in a press statement.
They added that the entire case is “fabricated.”
ANHRI lawyers hope that the court “would be considerate on this fabricated case that clearly displays the meeting of interests of the interior ministry to take revenge at the blogger, known for exposing many torture and corruption incidents and the pay back desire of one of the officers.”
The watchdog demanded that the government drop all charges against Abbas and punish the officers responsible for the vendetta against Abbas. Much of the case is based on one of Abbas’ neighbors who has a relationship with local police officers and the government has used the case as a means of putting the influential voice behind bars, rights activists have claimed.
“These fabricated cases against bloggers turned to be a known approach of the interior ministry,” ANHRI continued. “Filing such a charade case against a well-known blogger, is indeed a terror message to all other bloggers and an attempt to intimidate them and silence them on the police practices of the interior ministry.
“We are calling on all defenders of freedom of expression and anti-torture activists in Egypt and the world to solidarity with Wael Abbas and not to leave him prey of the interior ministry, the prime aggressor on the law in Egypt, a ministry that unleashes officers to violate rights of Egyptian citizens.”