Journalist union leaders go on trial in Egypt

Three leading members of Egypt's journalist union went on trial in Cairo Saturday on charges of harbouring two fugitive colleagues

Union chief Yahya Qallash, his deputy Khaled al-Balshy and Secretary General Gamal Abdel-Raheem were charged after a police raid on their headquarters last month that saw security forces arrest two wanted opposition journalists who had been staging a sit-in there.

Following a brief session on Saturday, the Cairo Misdemeanour Court adjourned the trial until June 18, a lawyer said.

"Today's session was procedural. We requested postponement of the trial in order to have time to examine the case’s papers, defence lawyer Doaa Mustafa told dpa.

"We have filed several legal complaints to investigate [the storming of the union], but no investigation has been conducted so far. We demand the prosecution bring to justice the wrongdoers."

The three defendants emerged from the courthouse holding hands.

Earlier on Saturday, several other journalists gathered outside the court building in solidarity. Some raised placards saying "journalism is not a crime," while others silently raised pens in a symbolic protest.

Qallash, al-Balshy and Abdel-Raheem were briefly arrested last week and released on bail pending the trial. Amnesty International said their arrests were "a dangerous escalation of the Egyptian authorities' draconian clampdown on freedom of expression."

The May 1 raid on the syndicate's premises was highly symbolic, as it was the only place in central Cairo where protest was grudgingly tolerated under former dictator Hosny Mubarak, who was ousted in a 2011 uprising.

The union has also been a focal point for anti-government demonstrations since Mubarak was toppled.

Last update: Sat, 04/06/2016 - 13:19
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