South Cairo Criminal Court sentenced 20 defendants accused of “insulting the judiciary” to three years in prison on Saturday. The other five defendants in the case — activist Alaa Abd El Fattah, politician Amr Hamzawy, TV personality Tawfik Okasha, Wafd Party member Mahmoud al-Saqqa and lawyer Amir Salem — were sentenced to a LE30,000 fine, according to lawyer Khaled Ali.
The court also ordered all defendants, except Saqqa and Okasha, to pay LE1 million each in compensation to the head of the Judges Club, and ordered former President Mohamed Morsi, who is implicated in the case, to pay an additional LE1 million in compensation to Judge Ali al-Nemr.
The case includes 25 defendants from across the political spectrum, all of whom have been charged with insulting the judiciary in separate incidents in 2012 and 2013.
It includes former Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, Brotherhood leaders Sobhi Saleh, Mohamed al-Beltagy and Saad al-Katatny, Jama’a al-Islamiya leader Assem Abdel Maged, former MPs Mostafa al-Naggar and Hamdy al-Fakharany, and judge Mahmoud al-Khodairy. Prominent journalist Abdel Halim Qandil as well as media personality Abdel Rahman Yusuf al-Qaradawi are also among the defendants.
Several defendants are already serving prison sentences in unrelated cases, including Muslim Brotherhood leaders who are serving prolonged sentences for multiple convictions, as well as Abd El Fattah, who is three and a half years into a five-year sentence he received in a case commonly known as the “Shura Council case.”
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 in 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, or tweets attributed to defendants.
Saturday’s verdict can be appealed through the Court of Cassation.