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Cablegate: Decision in Four Editors' Appeal Expected December

VZCZCXYZ0008
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHEG #2199 2891611
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 151611Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0651
INFO RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L CAIRO 002199

SIPDIS

NEA/ELA FOR CANEDO; DRL/NESCA FOR BERGLUND
NSC FOR PASCUAL

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/15/2028
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM EG
SUBJECT: DECISION IN FOUR EDITORS' APPEAL EXPECTED DECEMBER
6

REF: A. CAIRO 2198 B. CAIRO 2152 C. CAIRO 2122 D. 07 CAIRO 3543 E. 07 CAIRO 2825 Classified By: ECPO Mincouns William R. Stewart for reason 1.4 (d).
1.(U) On October 11, a Cairo Appeals Court heard arguments from the defense and the prosecution in the case of four independent editors convicted in September 2007 of "maliciously publishing false news regarding the National Democratic Party (NDP)" and "insulting and libeling the president of the NDP and its figures and symbols." Following the arguments, the court announced it would reconvene on December 6. In September 2007, the court handed down 20,000 Egyptian Pound fines (approximately 3,500 USD) and one-year prison sentences against the four independent editors (ref D) who remain free on bail: Ibrahim Eissa of "Al-Dostour," whom President Mubarak pardoned October 6 following his conviction and sentencing on separate and unrelated charges of spreading false rumors about Mubarak's health (ref B); Adel Hamouda of "Al-Fajr" whom a court ordered October 11 to pay a fine for insulting the Sheikh of Al-Azhar (ref A), Wael Al-Ibrashy of "Sawt Al-Umma" weekly; and Abdel Halim Kandeel, the former editor of "Al-Karamah" newspaper.

2.(C) Hafez Abu Seada of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, who is a lead lawyer for the four editors, told us October 13 that the court allowed him and the legal defense team to present their arguments, and that the opposing NDP lawyers pressed for the court to uphold the full one-year prison terms handed down in September 2007. Abu Seada said he expected the court to issue a verdict December 6. Abu Seada said he believes the court's inclination on how to rule on the appeal is currently "unclear," but he expressed hope that the October 6 Eissa pardon and the lack of a prison sentence imposed against Adel Hamouda of "Al-Fajr" October 11 have created a "positive political atmosphere." Abu Seada told us he expected short prison sentences or fines against the editors. Separately, Negad Al-Borai of the human rights NGO "The United Group" told us he expects the court to hand down large fines in order to send a political message to the press to back off the NDP. SCOBEY

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