The head of Egypt’s Journalists Syndicate Yehia Kalash said Saturday that “imprisonment is a simple price we can pay” hours after a Cairo misdemeanour court sentenced him and two other syndicate board members — Gamal Abdel-Reheem and Khaled El-Balshy — to two years in prison for harbouring fugitives inside the syndicate's headquarters.
“I’m not concerned with [imprisonment],” Kalash told dozens of journalists who gathered inside Downtown Cairo’s syndicate to express their anger at the verdict.
“I urge you to face the real problems... such as the new press law [currently being debated in parliament], the social and economic rights of journalists and to focus on changing the syndicate’s bylaws.”
The verdict, which was issued in absentia after the trio abstained from appearing in court, can still be appealed, and the court set bail at EGP10,000 for each defendant.
Kalash called for the board to meet at 5pm Cairo Local Time (CLT) to further discuss possible actions against the verdict.
Abdel-Reheem described the verdict against them as “harsh and historic,” adding that the ruling is a move against all syndicate members and journalists, not just the trio.
Commenting on the verdict in front of the syndicate’s headquarters, high board member Khalid El-Balshy told reporters that the syndicate will appeal the verdict, but in the meantime the verdict “will not distract us from the issues of journalists' rights and liberties.”
Dozens of journalists gathered on the staircases of the syndicate in the evening, chanting against the verdict and the interior minister.
These journalists decided earlier on Saturday to dedicate a box to collecting donations, accepting only coins, for the bail of the trio.
Journalists Mahmoud El-Sakka and Amr Badr were among many ordered arrested ahead of the 25 April protests against the Egyptian-Saudi Red Sea island maritime border agreement.
Badr and El-Sakka were arrested inside the Journalists Syndicate premises. They were later released on bail pending trial.
Kalash, Abdel-Reheem and El-Balshy are also facing charges of spreading false news about the police raid on the syndicate's headquarters on 1 May that resulted in the arrest of the two journalists.
A verdict session is yet to be set for this second charge.