El-Sisi says clemency for imprisoned journalists not possible now

Ahram Online, Monday 20 Oct 2014

El-Sisi says he can not interfere in the matters of an "independent judiciary"

Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi (Photo: Reuters)

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said he legally cannot grant amnesty for imprisoned or detained journalists in Egypt unless final verdicts in their cases are issued, stressing he cannot interfere in the work of the country's "independent" judiciary.

El-Sisi made such remarks during a meeting with a delegation of the Federation of Arab Journalists, in which several members urged the Egyptian President to pardon these individuals, Al-Ahram's Arabic news website reported.

El-Sisi said in the Monday meeting that he thinks the best way to deal with violations committed by foreign journalists is deportation outside the country, but made it clear that he cannot interfere with the judicial process, stressing that the country's judiciary is "completely independent."

El-Sisi emphasised that under Egyptian law, the president can only issue a pardon in case final court rulings are issued.

Three journalists of the Qatar-based Al Jazeera English news network - an australian national, an Egyptian-Canadian and an Egyptian - were sentenced in June to jail terms ranging from seven to 10 years for spreading false news and aiding the Brotherhood, a group now outlawed and designated a terrorist organisation by Egyptian authorities.

An appeal against their rulings is currently underway.

The sentences have drawn international condemnation raised alarm over the future of press freedoms in Egypt. The US has called for their release, with the White House in June calling for clemency for "all politically motivated sentences."

During a meeting with local journalists in July, El-Sisi said he wished Al Jazeera reporters had been deported and not put on trial.

Diaa Rashwan, head of Egypt's Journalists' syndicate, said in the meeting that five Egyptian journalists are currently detained in Egypt, arguing they are being tried for cases unrelated to publishing.

Rashwan also urged for presidential amnesty once final court verdicts are delivered.

The meeting on Monday was held on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Federation of Arab Journalists formation.

Established in 1964, the federation consists of regional journalist unions and associations; it is a pan-Arab democratic grassroots organisation that works to promote freedom, human rights and equality.

The federation's last congress was held in Cairo in January 2013.

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