A Cairo court on December 30, 2017, convicted Abdel Halim Kandil, an editor and columnist for the pro-government weekly Sawt al-Ummah, of “insulting the judiciary” and sentenced him in absentia to three years in prison, according to news reports. Egypt’s court of cassation upheld the sentence on October 15, 2018, and the journalist was taken into custody that day, according to the government-owned daily Al-Ahram and other news reports.
The charge is related to comments Kandil made in a TV interview aired on the privately owned channel Rotana TV in October 2011, according to documents presented to the court. During an interview with the show’s host, Hala Sarhan, Kandil referenced several articles that he wrote for Sawt al-Ummah and other dailies, in which he criticized the judiciary and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces over their handling of the corruption case against former President Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in 2011.
Kandil’s lawyer, Esam al-Islambouli, said that the charges were based on Sarhan’s testimony to prosecutors, who later released her on bail, according to news reports. The lawyer added that the only evidence presented against Kandil in court was testimony from Sarhan.
Kandil’s case is part of a wider trial that included former Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi and a number of politicians and journalists, including Alaa Abdelfattah, and that began in January 2014. Kandil has been banned from traveling since that date, according to Al-Jazeera and other media reports.
Kandil was taken to Cairo’s Tora prison hospital after experiencing health issues on hearing the verdict in his case in October 2018, according to media reports. The reports did not give further details.
A request from Kandil’s lawyer that the journalist be released was referred to a lower court, which scheduled a hearing for December 6, 2018, according to reports.
Kandil has faced other defamation complaints for his work. At least four civil and criminal defamation cases have been filed by pro-government businessmen and officials against Kandil since 2016, according to news reports. In one case, a Cairo criminal court convicted Kandil in absentia, in March 2017, and ordered the journalist to pay 10,000 Egyptian pounds in damages as part of a defamation suit brought by a military official, according to EOJM. The complaint was filed over an article published in Sawt al-Ummah in May 2014 about a set of devices that the officer and other military officials claimed were able to detect and cure Hepatitis C, AIDs, and other illnesses. The other cases, heard in 2017, resulted in Kandil being ordered to pay fines totaling 35,000 Egyptian pounds, according to news reports.