The Legal Aid Unit for Freedom of Expression won an acquittal for Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, director of the Ibn Khaldoun Center for Development Studies, in a Hisba case brought against him
(ANHRI/IFEX) – The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information announced that on 20 May 2009 the Legal Aid Unit for Freedom of Expression won an acquittal for Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, director of the Ibn Khaldoun Center for Development Studies, in a Hisba case brought against him by Ms. Thoraya Labna (in her capacity as Chief of Social Professions) in 2007. The Maadi Misdemeanor Court decided not to accept the criminal and civil suits, on the basis that the plaintiff was “incompetent”.
The plaintiff claimed that Dr. Saad had intentionally broadcast false news and malicious statements, in the State of Qatar and the Czech Republic, on the internal situation in Egypt. Furthermore, she claimed that this led to the weakening of the country’s financial confidence and prestige, accusing him of carrying out an action that would harm the national interests of the country. She further claimed that he benefited from that materially and morally. These charges are punishable under the Penal Code by imprisonment for up to five years and/or a fine.
Taher Abul-Nasr, a lawyer for ANHRI’s Legal Aid Unit for Freedom of Expression said, “Our success in winning this case confirms that we have begun to reap the fruits of the hard work conducted in the face of Hisba lawsuits over the past years. And this success encourages us to continue to call for the restructuring of the legal environment to get rid of the loopholes that allow professional plaintiffs of political and religious Hisba lawsuits to terrorize those who hold different opinions.”
It should be noted that Dr. Ibrahim was sentenced to two years in prison in 2008 in another Hisba lawsuit filed against him by one of the members of the ruling National Democratic Party for publishing articles deemed by the Prosecutor and the court to be damaging to the country’s national interests. In his articles, Ibrahim was calling for the American government to use its aid to pressure for progress in political reform in Egypt.
Rawda Ahmed, director of ANHRI’s Legal Aid Unit for Freedom of Expression, said, “Of course we are happy to win an acquittal for Dr. Saad, but what concerns us most is the growing phenomenon of Hisba lawsuits in recent times. We plunge into Hisba lawsuits with a deep-rooted belief in the fairness of our clients’ position, when on the other hand, we do not know exactly the outcomes or the fate of the lawsuit . . . in the Hisba case that we assumed, we got Ibrahim acquitted, but in another identical case, the man was declared guilty, which prompts us to question the nature of these provisions and whether they are political or legal.”
Lawsuits for religious and political Hisba, which the Egyptian law allows for consideration in courts, have generally become a source of fame, influence and profiteering for those who initiate them with no real interest or competence, and they pose an actual threat to writers and journalists, regardless of their innocence or guilt.