Trial postponed for journalist accused of inciting public against new tax

An Egyptian court on Sunday postponed trial proceedings for Wael al-Ibrashy, chief editor of independent weekly Sawt al-Umma, who faces charges of "inciting public opinion" against a new tax on real estate. Trial proceedings were postponed to 12 February.

Al-Ibrashi’s articles, in which he criticized certain prominent politicians by name, prompted Finance Minister Youssef Boutros-Ghali to file a lawsuit against the journalist.

In one of his articles, al-Ibrashi had written that the new tax contravened Egypt's constitution, asserting that it would only serve to impose a greater financial burden on the Egyptian middle class.

Samar al-Dawy, a reporter for the same newspaper, had quoted a legal expert who predicted–incorrectly as it turned out–that the Constitutional Court would reject the new tax. Al-Dawy, too, faces charges of "inciting public opinion."

International media watchdog the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in June urged Boutros-Ghali to drop the charges, asserting that trying reporters before criminal courts amounted to waging a crackdown on journalists by the Egyptian government.

The CPJ also noted that the criminal charge falls under Article 177 of the Egyptian Penal Code, which has traditionally been applied only in the trials of armed groups and not in press-related cases.

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