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Egypt's Journalists Syndicate can't be broken, says chairman Yehia Kalash

The head of Egypt's Press Syndicate and two board members were referred on Monday to court on charges of harbouring fugitives and spreading false news

Ahram Online , Tuesday 31 May 2016
Yehia Kalash
File Photo: Journalists carry Yehia Kalash, head of the Egyptian press syndicate, during a protest against restrictions on the press and to demand the release of detained journalists, in front of the Press Syndicate in Cairo, Egypt May 4, 2016 (Reuters)

Egypt's Journalists Syndicate cannot be broken and whoever bets on this will lose in the end, the chairman of the syndicate Yehia Kalash said on Monday, following a decision by prosecution to refer him and two other board members to court.

Kalash, Gamal Abdel-Reheem, the syndicate's secretary-general and Khaled El-Balshy, the syndicate's undersecretary, were released late on Monday night after their EGP 10,000 bail was paid anonymously against their will.

The prosecution has charged the three with harbouring fugitives and spreading false news on police arrest of two wanted journalists.

Their trial is set to begin Saturday.

The three board members refused to pay the bail in protest against the entire investigation.

"We declined to pay the bail, not because we are seeking pride, but for the sake of defending the rights of and protecting all journalists," Kalash said following his release.

Egyptian law allows third parties to post bail for defendants, though they have to sign release documents themselves. 

"I don't know until now who paid the bill but we didn't sign any release papers," Kalash said.

The three board members are accused of illegally harbouring journalists Mahmoud El-Sakka and Amr Badr, who were wanted on criminal charges, in the syndicate's headquarters in downtown Cairo.

El Sakka and Badr, who run the progressive 25 January news portal, took refuge in late April in the union's headquarters for one day, seeking legal help from the syndicate's board to fight charges of spreading false news related to the controversial Egyptian-Saudi Red Sea island maritime border agreement.

On 1 May, in an unprecedented move, security forces stormed the syndicate headquarters in Cairo.

The syndicate says that over 40 policemen stormed the building to arrest both El Sakka and Badr, an incident that has left the Journalists Syndicate and the interior ministry at loggerheads for weeks.

Kalash insisted that the syndicate was assaulted and that the "assailants don’t want to confess to what they did."

"We will continue defending the rights of the journalists," Kalash said.

"We are not in a fight with any institution because we are fighting terrorism and sectarianism. We have martyrs everyday."

"It's hard to break us because we stand for an honourable cause," Kalash added.

Meanwhile, the Journalists Syndicate issued a statement late on Monday denouncing the anonymous payment of the bail, and said it is studying a call for an emergency general assembly to defend its rights.

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