NUJ condemns Egyptian court for upholding member's death penalty
19 June 2016
An Egyptian court this weekend upheld the death penalty meted out to NUJ member Ibrahim Helal, the Al Jazeera journalist sentenced in absentia in May after a 2 year legal case process.
In a lengthy preamble, the judge referred repeatedly to the so-called “betrayal” by the journalist, who was accused of spying following the broadcast of a story on Al Jazeera when he was head of news.
After the verdict, Ibrahim told the NUJ: “My response to this false accusation is: the real betrayal is to deceive the people of Egypt and lie to them by fabricating these false court cases in order to steer the attention away from the real problems confronting Egypt. The real betrayal is to waste the nation's resources in thousands of baseless legal proceedings and imprisonment of tens of thousands of young productive citizens in order to please the ruling regime.
“I have never been a member of any political party or group. I have never been anything but a journalist trying to get the most accurate and impartial way of telling stories. This - predicted - sentence will only give me strength to continue being a journalist, especially after I felt the injustice myself after many years of reporting it.”
NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet added: “The upholding of this verdict on a case of trumped up, baseless charges, demonstrates how rotten and politicised the judicial process in Egypt is. Ibrahim has been charged and sentenced in absentia, with no recourse to any transparent process and no ability to clear his name and demonstrate just how ridiculous these charges are.
“This is an assault on journalism and on freedom of speech. It is part of a broader attempt to silence journalists in Egypt who are operating in a climate of unimaginable pressure and interference. This criminalistion of journalism is something the international community must continue to condemn loudly and robustly.”
The verdict came as the leadership of the NUJ’s sister union in Egypt, the Egyptian Press Syndicate, were also in court following the recent raid of their union headquarters in Cairo. The hearing was adjourned to 25 June.