1st trial session for head of press union, 2 members delayed
Head of syndicate Yehia Qallash outside Cairo Abdeen Court to attend their first trial session over charges of hiding fugitives and spreading false news. Photo by Amr Mostafa/Youm7.

CAIRO: The first trial session of three Press Syndicate leaders over “harboring people wanted by the police” inside the union’s HQs was adjourned to June 18, Youm7 reported Saturday.

Qasr el-Nil Misdemeanor Court on Saturday has considered the first court hearing, in which the head of the press syndicate Yehia Qallash, and two board members Khaled el-Balshy and Gamal Abdel Raheem are accused of hiding fugitives and spreading false news.

The defense team requested the hearing be postponed to review the case records and photocopy investigations conducted with the two reporters whom the trio is accused of hiding.

Qallash, El-Balshy and Abdel Reheem were interrogated Sunday over the said charges, which they denied, and were then ordered released on bail of 10,000 EGP ($1,126) each.

The charges against the syndicate leaders have been slammed by rights groups and press organizations as further curbing of press freedom in the country.

A Wednesday statement by the European Union has blasted Egypt’s “broader limitations on freedom of expression and press freedom” following the trio’s indictment. The EU’s release was unpleasant for the Egyptian government, which criticized the EU for only focusing on freedom of expression and press freedom and ignoring other educational and economical aspects of human rights.

The accusations drawn against the three syndicate leaders are based on a police raid that took place on May 1 at the press syndicate’s HQs and was followed by the arrest of two journalists; Amr Badr and Mahmoud el-Saqqa, who the police claimed an arrest warrant was issued against them.

Few days before they were arrested, Badr and el-Saqqa were holding a sit-in inside the syndicate HQs protesting police raids at their houses. The two journos are facing a list of charges including attempt to overthrow the regime and inciting violence by calling for the anti-government protests that took to the streets April 25 against the transfer of the sovereignty of two Red Sea islands into the Saudi waters.

Dozens of journalists in Egypt are landing behind bars, were summoned to investigations or banned from travel. The country has ranked the second worst jailer in 2015 according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ.)

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