15 September 1997


Heavy sentences for Saudi daily journalists

Incident details


(RSF/IFEX) - On 15 September 1997, RSF expressed concern at the
very heavy penalties imposed on five members of the editorial
staff of the Saudi daily "Asharq Al-Awsat". According to RSF's
information, on 14 September, the Cairo criminal court sentenced
owners Hisham and Mohammad Ali Hafez, and editor-in-chief Osmane
al-Amir (three Saudis), along with two Egyptian staffers, managing
editor Fawziya Salama (f) and sub-editor Gamal Ismail. The five
were sentenced to one year of forced labour and fined 6,000 (US)
dollars for slandering Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's two
sons. Egyptian journalist Sayed Abdel Ati, who wrote the article
considered defamatory and was the only one present in court, was
sentenced to six months' imprisonment and fined 4,500 dollars.

Gamal and Alaa Mubarak, President Mubarak's sons, filed charges
against the Asharq Al-Awsat press group, which in May advertised
that its magazine "Al-Jadida" would carry an article accusing the
two of involvement in corrupt deals. Distribution of the magazine
was halted and the press group published apologies, which it again
made in court. However, the two sons pursued the charges.

On 11 September, the Asharq Al-Awsat group announced it was
closing its Cairo offices to protest what it felt was its unjust
treatment during the trial. The media group's London-based lawyers
argued the Egyptian court did not have jurisdiction over the Saudi

Recommended Action

Send appeals to the Egyptian President:

  • denouncing a verdict which is disproportionate to the offence,
    and asking that the journalists' sentences to prison and forced
    labour be annulled
  • asking that prison sentences never be applied to press offences
    in Egypt

    Appeals To

    His Excellency President Hosni Mubarak
    Abedine Palace
    Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt
    Fax: +202 355 57 00

    Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

  • Source

    Reporters Without Borders
    47, rue Vivienne
    75002 Paris, France
    rsf (@) rsf.org

    Fax:+33 1 45 23 11 51
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