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Cablegate: Egyptian Court Convicts Editor but Suspends Jail

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHEG #0595 0861504
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 261504Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8671
INFO RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS CAIRO 000595

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

NSC STAFF FOR PASCUAL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KDEM KPAO EG
SUBJECT: EGYPTIAN COURT CONVICTS EDITOR BUT SUSPENDS JAIL
SENTENCE

REF: A. 07 CAIRO 2825
B. 07 CAIRO 2936
C. 07 CAIRO 3133

1. (SBU) On March 26, a Cairo court convicted Ibrahim
Eissa, editor of the independent newspaper Al-Dustour, of
spreading false information in connection with the
newspaper's August 2007 publication of stories reporting
rumors then circulating that President Mubarak was in poor
health. The court sentenced Eissa to 6 months in prison, but
suspended the sentence and, at least for now, he will not be
jailed. Several similar lawsuits and Eissa's appeal of a
previous conviction, also resulting in a jail sentence,
remain pending. The jail sentence in this case could be
enforced if Eissa is convicted in any of the other pending
cases or loses his appeal of the earlier conviction. The
court also fined Eissa LE 200 (about $36).

2. (SBU) Lawyers from Eissa,s defense team immediately
announced that they will appeal the conviction. In a written
statement, Gamal Eid of the Arabic Network for Human Rights
Information and a lawyer for Eissa, labeled the verdict
further evidence of the Egyptian Government's lack of respect
for freedom of the press and intolerance of criticism. In the
statement, Eid also said the suspension of the prison
sentence was a "compromise" because imprisoning Eissa would
be "a big scandal."

3.(SBU) Comment: The conviction, with a minimal fine and
suspension of the prison sentence, may well have been a
compromise. The GOE is fully-aware of the international
attention Eissa's legal difficulties have attracted. By
convicting him, but not immediately enforcing the sentence
while maintaining the ability to do so in the future, the
court may be trying to avoid international criticism while
sending a message to Eissa and other journalists.
RICCIARDONE

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