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Egypt editor jailed for publishing 'rumours'

Published Sep 28, 2008

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Cairo - An appeals court on Sunday ordered outspoken Egyptian editor Ibrahim Eissa to be jailed for two months for writing rumours about President Hosni Mubarak's health, a judicial source said.

"The appeals court ordered him jailed for two months," the source said, asking not to be named. Eissa was not in court for the verdict.

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Eissa, editor-in-chief of the independent Al-Dustur daily, was charged with spreading "false information... damaging the public interest and national stability," and had faced up to three years in prison.

The appeals court verdict followed an initial ruling in March which ordered him jailed for six months.

The first trial had been due to be heard before a state security court where he would have had no right of appeal, but eventually took place in an ordinary court after what the journalists' union called regime backpedalling.

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The charge against Eissa stemmed from accusations that his reports on Mubarak's health last August led investors to pull their money out of Egypt.

Eissa was accused of harming Egypt's economy after the rumours allegedly caused foreign investors to withdraw investments worth more than $350-million (about R2,8-billion) from the stock exchange.

Speculation about Mubarak was widely reported in Egypt's independent press and included reports of his hospitalisation, travel abroad for treatment and even death.

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At least seven journalists were sentenced in September 2007 to up to two years in prison on charges ranging from misquoting the justice minister to spreading rumours about the 80-year-old president.

The crackdown prompted 23 papers to suspend publication for one day in protest.

In February, an Al-Jazeera journalist who had been sentenced to six months over a film that highlighted torture in Egyptian police stations had her sentence reduced to a fine.

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The harsh treatment of the Egyptian media led the United States last year to voice "deep concern" at the convictions, a criticism rejected by Egypt as "unacceptable interference" by its ally.

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