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Al-Watan slams Egypt's military trial of its reporter

Al-Watan journalist sentenced to a year in prison Tuesday for 'impersonating military personnel'

Ahram Online, Wednesday 30 Oct 2013
Detained journalist Hatem Abou El-Nour (Photo courtesy of Al-Watan newspaper)

A northern Cairo military court sentenced journalist Hatem Abou El-Nour to a year in prison on Tuesday over allegations he impersonated military personnel.

The privately-owned Al-Watan newspaper, which El-Nour works for, criticised the decision, asserting that the constitution that is currently being revised bars the detention of journalists.

El-Nour’s wife told Al-Watan that her husband has been in detention for almost two months. She added that he was "gathering information" at the time of his arrest.

“He is a journalist; even if there is a violation, he can’t be considered a terrorist or criminal and be put on military trial,” his wife added.

Al-Watan expressed its “surprise” over what they termed “shocking policies” against the Egyptian media, which, according to the staunchly anti-Islamist daily, played a key role in sparking the 30 June revolution.

“Al-Watan asks the military institute that we respect and appreciate: Do media personnel in Egypt now deserve to be thrown into military prisons?”

“If the answer is ‘yes’, then we regret whatever happened [referring to their support for the army] and it's up to you to do whatever you want, but we will not give up on Hatem Abo El-Nour, even if we are all sent to prison,” added Al-Watan.

On 5 October, Sinai-based journalist Ahmed Abu-Deraa was sentenced by a military court to six months in prison. That sentence was later suspended.

Abu-Deraa, who was accused of publishing false news and rumours about military operations against militants in north Sinai, was released after being detained for almost a month.

Article 198 of the currently dissolved 2012 constitution dictates that civilians are not to be tried before military courts, except for crimes that include direct assault on the armed forces, which are specified by law. The jurisdiction of military courts is also determined by law.

Rights groups in Egypt have been pressuring for the amendment of article 198 so that military courts are only concerned with crimes committed by members of the armed forces.

While a final draft of the post-Morsi constitution is set to be finalised by 3 December, according to the 50-member committee spokesman, article 198 remains a source of dispute within the committee.

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