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Egyptian human rights groups denounce charges against press syndicate leaders

Ahram Online , Tuesday 31 May 2016
Kalash, Gamal Abdel-Reheem and El-Balshy
Yehia Kalash (L) the head of the journalists syndicate , Gamal Abdel-Reheem (C), the syndicate's secretary-general, and Khaled El-Balshy, the syndicate's undersecretary chatting in Qasr El-Nil police station after they refused to pay bail (Photo: Al-Ahram)

Nineteen human rights organizations denounced Monday the detainment of and charges leveled against the head of the journalists syndicate Yehia Kalash and two union board members, calling the government's actions against the journalists the "worst" and "most dangerous" in the history of press freedom.

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

Prosecutors have referred the trio to court on charges of spreading false news and harboring fugitives.

"The charges that the union head, secretary general, and under-secretary are facing do not comply with the 2014 constitution [in regards to] preventive detention or bail; as for charges of sheltering fugitives: this is in fact an absurd charge and is an act of professionalism by the board members," the statement read.

The organisations which signed the statement  include Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the Arab Organization for Penal Reform, Journalists Against Torture Observatory, the Land Center for Human Rights, and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.

The statement added that human rights organizations believe that the detention of the three union board members will mark a new level of confrontation between Egyptian authorities and the journalists syndicate.  

Charges of spreading false news stem from a 1 May incident in which the interior ministry raided the downtown Cairo press syndicate to arrest two journalists, Mahmoud El-Sakka and Amr Badr, who were staging a sit-in in the union's headquarters in protest of warrants issued for their arrest.

The incident has left the Journalists Syndicate and the interior ministry at odds for weeks.

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