An Egyptian court on Sunday postponed the trial of Wael al-Ebrashi, editor-in-chief of independent weekly Sawt al-Umma, who faces charges of inciting public opinion against proposed real estate tax legislation.
Judicial sources told al-Masry Al-Youm that the Giza Criminal Court had ruled to postpone trial proceedings until 17 October.
Al-Ebrashi was initially charged after heading a press campaign opposing the proposed legislation, which included the publication of several articles by journalists, politicians and economists critical of the new tax bill.
In one of his articles, al-Ebrashi challenged the constitutionality of the draft legislation, which he said would only serve to augment the financial burden on Egypt's already-struggling middle class. In another article, Sawt al-Umma Editor Samar el-Dawi quoted a legal expert as saying that the bill was currently under review by Egypt's Constitutional Court. The legal expert went on to predict that the bill "would be rejected."
Egyptian Finance Minister Youssef Boutros-Ghali has filed a lawsuit against al-Ebrashi and al-Dawi for their outspoken opposition to the draft bill.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, an international rights watchdog, has called on Boutros-Ghali to drop the charges against the two men. “The provision under which our colleagues are being charged, along with the fact that they are to be tried in a criminal court, strongly suggests that the government is intent on punishing critical journalists for their work,” the committee declared in a statement.
On 14 June, al-Ebrashi and al-Dawi were ordered to appear before a criminal court on charges of “inciting the public to disobey the law,” as per article 177 of the Egyptian penal code.
According to the committee, article 177 has heretofore only been used to prosecute armed groups and has never been employed in a press-related case.
In 2007, an Egyptian court sentenced al-Ebrashi and three other independent editors-in-chief to one year in prison each on charges of "spreading false information likely to disturb public order." An appeals court later ruled to drop the charges, however, after ordering each of the defendants to pay an LE 20,000 fine.
Translated from the Arabic Edition.