Egyptian blogger Abbas, cleared once, is convicted anew

New York, March 11, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns a court decision to sentence the popular and award-winning Egyptian blogger Wael Abbas, left, to six months in prison and calls on Egyptian authorities to put an end to years-long harassment leveled against him.

In November 2009, Abbas was sentenced to six months in prison and a fine of 500 Egyptian pounds (US$90) on a charge of damaging an Internet cable, Abbas’ defense lawyer Rawda Ahmed told CPJ. A Cairo appeals court tossed out the conviction in February, calling the charges unfounded.  

Ahmed said the Ministry of Interior then brought the case to the Economic Court with a new charge of “providing telecommunications service to the public without permission from authorities.” According to local news reports, the Economic Court sentenced Abbas on Wednesday to six months in prison and a fine of 500 Egyptian Pounds (US $90). Neither Abbas nor his lawyer was notified of the new proceeding.

“This sentence was issued through a twisted legal path and reveals an invisible hand manipulating the case. The case was closed and we already proved to the courts that the charges brought against my client were fabricated,” Ahmed told CPJ. Abbas remained free today; Ahmed said the new conviction would be challenged.

“We urge the Egyptian judiciary to overturn this new sentence against Wael Abbas,” said CPJ’s Middle ‎East and North Africa Program Coordinator, Mohamed Abdel Dayem. “To manufacture one charge after another until one finally sticks makes a mockery of the law.”

Abbas has been among the leading voices in an anti-torture campaign in Egypt, posting a number of videos on his blog that revealed abuse of people in official custody. Over the years, Abbas has received threatening phone calls, was detained at the Cairo airport after returning from a trip to Sweden, was pulled off the street and held for hours, and was called a criminal on television and online.