The trial of the head of the Press Syndicate Yahiya Qalash and two other board members was adjourned to June 18. According to Al-Ahram, a state-owned newspaper, the trial was adjourned on the request of the defense, led by rights lawyer Khaled Ali, to give more time for defense lawyers to review the case.
The charges raised against the three press figures are spreading false news and harboring journalists wanted by authorities.
Yahiya Qalash and board members Khaled el-Balshy and Gamal Abdel-Rahim showed up at the downtown Cairo court with some dozen defense lawyers led by former presidential candidate Khaled Ali.
Representatives from the country’s National Council for Human Rights attended the trial in solidarity along with representatives from the European Union and the German Embassy in Cairo.
The journalists chanted “Long live the struggle of journalists!” and “Raise your head up high; you are a journalist!” when the defendants came out of the courthouse, where scores of riot police were deployed, backed by armored vehicles.
During the first session of the trial, Ali said the prosecuting of the head of Egypt’s Press Syndicate is a “terrorizing message to journalists nationwide.”
In the same context, one defendant considered the charges raised against them as part of a government plan to create a “state of fear. Khaled el-Balshy, who heads the union’s freedoms commission, told reporters before Saturday’s hearing, “We are dealing with a case that must be seen in the wider context of a society where there is an all-out attack on freedoms, closure of public sphere and efforts to establish a state of fear.” Last week, Amnesty International condemned the case, describing it as part of a “draconian” crackdown on freedom of expression.
The Press Syndicate’s crisis started when the Egyptian security forces stormed the Journalists building for the first time in history and arrested two journalists: Mahmoud El-Sakka and Amr Badr – who were staging a sit-in to protest against the arrest of their colleagues during the protests of Sinai Liberation Day – in the syndicate’s downtown Cairo headquarters. The crisis escalated when the Press Syndicate led by Qalash held an emergency meeting that called for the interior minister’s resignation and a presidential apology over the arrest of two journalists wanted for inciting protests who had taken refuge inside the headquarters of the Press Syndicate.