The verdict on an appeal filed by Yehia Qallash, head of the Journalists Syndicate, and two board members Khaled al-Balshy and Gamal Abdel Rehim, was postponed by the Qasr al-Nil appeals court on Saturday until March 25.
The syndicate members are appealing against a November 19 court verdict sentencing them to two years imprisonment, which was suspended pending the appeal on bail of LE10,000 each. They were summoned for investigations into charges of “harboring fugitives and propagating false news” in May last year.
Dozens of journalists gathered at the syndicate building in the hours before the verdict, where they were welcomed by Balshy, in response to a call for support issued by the Front to Defend Journalists and Freedoms.
The charges leveled against them relate to the arrest of two journalists, Amr Badr and Mahmoud al-Sakka, on May 1 during a raid on the Journalists Syndicate building where they were holding a sit-in. This was the first time the building was raided in the syndicate’s history, increasing tensions between journalists and the Interior Ministry.
Following the raid, over 3,500 journalists participated in an emergency general meeting that called for the resignation of the interior minister and demanded an apology from the president.
Authorities responded to the journalists’ demands by charging the three syndicate leaders with harboring fugitives for permitting Badr and Sakka to hold the sit-in, as they were being sought by the police, according to a statement from the general prosecution.
Both Badr and Sakka were released after spending four and five months in custody respectively.
Qallash is currently rerunning for the post of syndicate head in the upcoming elections, in competition with Abdel Mohsen Salama, an editor at the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper. There are seven candidates running for syndicate head, and 73 for the six board positions. The elections will be held March 3.
The case has no legal impact on the election proceedings, as the charges leveled against Qallash do not break its bylaws, however it is likely to influence the outcome. This is made evident by the polarization of journalists between those who hold current board members responsible for the escalation of the clash with the ministry, and those who hold the authorities responsible.