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Protest in North Sinai against military trial of journalist

Military trial of Al-Masry Al-Youm's Ahmed Abu Deraa comes amid heightened concerns for freedom of speech in Egypt

Ahram Online , Tuesday 17 Sep 2013
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Views: 504

A press coalition in Egypt's North Sinai has staged a protest against the military trial of journalist Ahmed Abu Deraa, state news agency MENA reported.

Abu Deraa, who writes for independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm, was arrested in North Sinai on 4 September for allegedly spreading lies about the army's crackdown on militants in the Sinai Peninsula.

His trial, in the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya, has been adjourned until Wednesday 18 September.

Tuesday's protest – led by the North Sinai Coalition of Journalists and Reporters – took place in Al-Arish city centre and was joined by activists, and local tribal and political figures.

"A large number of fellow journalists and activists support Abu Deraa. All hope the crisis will end," coalition leader Abdel-Kader Mubarak told MENA.

His detention was decried by rights activists who condemn the mounting number of civilians facing military trials since the army's popularly backed overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi on 3 July.

Military spokesman Ahmed Ali has justified the trial, saying the charges against Abu Deraa came under the military's jurisdiction.

"Investigations show Mr Abu Deraa spread lies, saying that Egyptian armed forces were attacking mosques, women and children. He deliberately spread false news," Ali told reporters. "He also entered military zones."

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RWB) has demanded his "immediate and unconditional release."

RWB said Abu Deraa's arrest came a day after Al-Masry Al-Youm published articles exposing "violations" committed by the armed forces against civilians in Sinai, including the reported shelling of Al-Moqataa village, in which four civilians were injured.

Egypt's military has launched a broad offensive in Sinai against Islamist militants after an uptick in violence following Morsi's ouster. The army has killed around 100 militants and arrested more than 300 others so far.

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