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Criminal court postpones verdict for ‘insulting judiciary’ case

For 28 months, a case involving 25 prominent figures from across the political spectrum, all of whom have been charged with insulting the judiciary in separate incidents in 2012 and 2013, has been ongoing. On Saturday, Cairo Criminal Court postponed a ruling on the case to December 30.

Ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi is implicated in the case, along with former Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, Brotherhood leaders Sobhi Saleh, Mohamed al-Beltagy and Saad al-Katatny, and Jama’a al-Islamiya leader Assem Abdel Maged.

The list also includes former MPs Mostafa al-Naggar, Hamdy al-Fakharany and Amr Hamzawy, lawyer Amir Salem, judge Mahmoud al-Khodairy and activist Alaa Abd El Fattah.

Prominent journalist Abdel Halim Qandil, as well as media personalities Abdel Rahman Yusuf al-Qaradawi and Tawfik Okasha, are also among the defendants.

The case has evolved during the course of several presidential administrations. It dates back to September 5, 2012 — while the Muslim Brotherhood was in power — when then-Minister of Justice Mahmoud Mekki issued a decision to delegate Tharwat Hammad, head of the Cairo Court of Appeals, to investigate reports accusing a number of newspapers and media outlets of insulting the judiciary in press articles and television programs.

The investigation continued for two years, until it was referred to Cairo Criminal Court for trial on January 19, 2014, during the interim presidency of Judge Adly Mansour. The first trial hearings began May 23, 2015, under the presidency of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Most of the incidents for which defendants are being tried are either statements commenting on the performance of the judiciary in general, remarks on the Criminal Court ruling in the “trial of the century” case against former President Hosni Mubarak, comments made by former MPs in Parliament, or tweets attributed to defendants.

A number of former parliamentarians elected in 2011, including Katatny, Naggar, Beltagy, Fakharany, Khodairy, and Saleh, have been indicted for comments they made during parliamentary sessions in June 2012 discussing the Cairo Criminal Court ruling in Mubarak’s ‘killing protesters’ case, which were then broadcasted on television.

Former President Morsi is accused of insulting the judiciary in a speech he gave in his capacity as president in June 2012.

Judge Khodairy, former vice president of the Court of Cassation, is being tried for statements in which he accused a number of judges of involvement in “rigging parliamentary elections in 2005 and 2010,” saying they should be removed from their judicial posts and accusing them of “fraud” in favor of the ruling National Democratic Party at the time. These statements were made either during television or press interviews, or various other public forums, including during a parliamentary session in June 2012, following the verdict against Mubarak.

Activist Abd El Fattah faces charges of insulting the judiciary based on a tweet attributed to him that was included in a complaint lodged by Judges’ Club in Assiut to the Public Prosecutor against a number of defendants. Investigators also used a copy of a tweet published in a March 2012 Al-Wafd newspaper report, in which Abd El Fattah is accused of using “unseemly words” to describe the judiciary while commenting on the 2011 NGO foreign funding case.

Former MP Amr Hamzawy has also been implicated for an alleged tweet criticizing a court ruling in the same case, calling it “politicized.”

According to a technical report compiled by the Department of Computer and Information Crimes, the department could not confirm that the tweets in question were published on accounts attributed to Abd El Fattah and Hamzawy.

Prosecution witnesses in the case include media professionals and journalists, whose talk shows or news reports have been used by investigative judges as evidence to indict defendants. Investigating bodies in the case had initially accused these individuals themselves of insulting the judiciary, before changing their statuses to witnesses for the prosecution.

The list of media professionals summoned by investigating judges for testimony include about 18 media personalities, including Wael al-Ibrashy, Hala Sarhan, Lamis al-Hadidi, Amany al-Khayat, Khaled Salah, Khairy Ramadan, Dina Abdel Rahman and Mahmoud Saad.

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