Journalists on trial in Egypt for 'spreading false news'

Journalists on trial in Egypt for 'spreading false news'
Egypt has again placed journalists in the dock, this time for allegedly "defaming" a reportedly corrupt justice minister ostensibly leading an anti-corruption crusade.
2 min read
07 January, 2016
Ahmed al-Zend (left) with the Egyptian prime minister and a judge [Getty]
An Egyptian prosecutor has referred six local journalists to trial for allegedly spreading "false news" that defamed the justice minister.

Prosecutor Fathy Bayoumi said on Wednesday that the six were sent to court after investigators found that they "intentionally published false information to defame" Justice Minister Ahmed al-Zend.

The reports said al-Zend, as head of the powerful Judges' Club, sold state lands to a relative at below-market price.

The accused include editors from the state-owned Al-Ahram news website and Abdel-Haleem Kandeel, a well-known journalist.

Al-Zend was the judge in the case against businessmen accused of money-laudering and selling land for below market price. The defendents included Hosni Mubarak's sons, businessman Hussein Salem, former trade minister Rachid Mohamed Rachid, and other Mubarak regime figures.

On Wednesday, al-Zend said negotiations with the businessmen were still ongoing.  

Land-rights activists have been critical of the policy to reconcile with businessmen who are estimated to have taken around $132 billion dollars from the country which are now in Swiss banks. 

"My belief is that it's not a real comprehensive crack-down…the official line is reconciliation with the Mubarak era land-grabbers, where they fined those who had been grabbing land," lands-rights activist Baher Shawky told al-Araby al-Jadeed.

The public prosecutor in Egypt has, within the past year, been forced into legal settlements worth billions of pounds to drop charges, with business leaders paying huge sums to settle pending cases out of court.

"While no compromises will be made for Egypt's rights during negotiations, no injustice will befall investors," al-Zend said in his speech at the Egyptian Canadian council assembly on Wednesday.

As well as being accused of corruption over the sale of land, al-Zend has been reportedly sustaining corrupt practice within the judiciary.

Sources previously told al-Araby al-Jadeed that there was an unspoken agreement between al-Zend and a variety of judicial bodies that if any judge were involved in a criminal case, it can be closed in return for the judge's resignation.

With agencies