Legal Unit – Digital freedom program
Ahmed Anwar is a young blogger, born in Tanta, Gharbeyya governorate; he participated in the 25th of January revolution and was injured in the famous Mohamed Mahmud events in November 2011. Anwar blogs and communicates through several social media channels, especially YouTube, which he uses in preparation and distribution of cynical and ironic videos that carry political criticism of the performance of some state institutions in the period following the revolution until now.
Early 2012 the MOI organized a social artistic event for families of officers, which hosted “Marwa” a famous stage performer. Anwar, with the help of a friend made a cynical video clip titled “the relation of artist Marwa to the MOI” where he ridiculed the MOI officers for their impunity after killing protesters and their role in the continued state of general insecurity. He published the clip on his YouTube channel on the
5th of March 2012.
General Ali Mohamed Abdelmoula, legal affairs director at the security directorate of Gharbayya filed a complaint with Tanta
1st police station against Ahmed Anwar (no. 4502/2012) accusing him of insulting MOI and defaming the police. The complaint was referred to the public prosecution, which began its investigations on the 17th of May 2012 by summoning the complainant to inquire about the content of his complaint.
The MOI representative did not appear in front of the
prosecution all through the period from the 17th of May 2012 to the 17th of March 2013. Also, the prosecution did not summon Ahmed Anwar throughout this period to hear his statements regarding the accusations made against him.
On the 17th of March 2013 Colonel Khaled Shamla appeared in front of the prosecution representing MOI in the aforementioned case. In his statements he said that MOI had filed its complaint because of the video distributed by Anwar, that the video constitutes an insult to MOI and that Anwar was abusing the internet to defame the MOI.
After the end of the hearing with Colonel Khaled Shamla the prosecution should have summoned Anwar to question him. However, it issued an arrest warrant against him, but the police did not find him at home.
On the 27th of March 2013 the prosecution ordered the referral of Anwar to Tanta court of misdemeanor, after accusing him of the crimes listed in article 306 of the penal code, which states that:
“Any insult not based on evidence related to a particular event, and which includes in any way tarnishing of honor or status I punishable by a fine no less than 2000 EGP and not more than 10000 EGP”.
As well as the crime mentioned in article 75 of the law organizing communication no. 10/2003 which states that:
“Any person who discloses, disseminates or broadcasts any information he accessed by virtue of or because of his job concerning a public information body possibly resulting in illegitimate competition between public
bodies working in this field will be punished by
imprisonment and/or a fine no less than 20000EGP and no more than 100000 EGP.
And the crime mentioned in article 76 of the communication law, which states that:
Notwithstanding the right to an appropriate compensation, a person is punishable by imprisonment and/or a 500 – 20000 EGP fine if he undertakes any of the following:
1. Use or help in the use of illegal methods for communication
2. Deliberate disturbance or upset of another by abuse of
Tanta court of misdemeanor scheduled Anwar’s trial for the 4th
of May 2013.
1 The charges against Ahmed Anwar violate freedom of opinion and expression.
Anwar has criticized the MOI through the video for which he is standing trial. His criticism was addressed to a state body, a right granted by the Egyptian constitution and international conventions, within the frame of freedom of opinion and expression. If the law has imposed some restrictions on criticism towards persons regarding their reputation and status it did not do the same regarding institutions, since criticism of their performance is not only a right granted to every citizens but also a duty, considering that citizen criticism of state
institutions constitutes a form of popular monitoring, that
should feed into an improvement of that performance.
Furthermore the charges made against Ahmed Anwar based on the penal code and the communications law are charges in violation of freedom of expression as well as vague, giving law enforcement bodies a wide scope of possible interpretation, a matter which endangers freedom of expression and would definitely lead to punishment of innocent citizens as is the case with Anwar.
The use of defaming expressions, insult and abuse of communication networks all lack a clear definition, by which we could determine whether Anwar has actually committed the crimes of which he was accused or he was only exercising his constitutional and legal right to freedom of expression.
2 Lack of seriousness of public prosecution investigations
In investigating those types of crimes the prosecution is faced with technical issues such as having to provide evidence that Anwar actually distributed the above mentioned video, to confirm his voice imprint and that the images on the video are in fact his. Therefore in such cases the prosecution had to refer the case to a technical expert to provide its evidence and then face the defendant with the available charges and evidence. However, it did not do any of the above, and only listened to the statement by the representative of the MOI, without taking Anwar’s statement in his capacity as an accused, thereby establishing an injustice towards Anwar who did not have a chance of self defense during the stage of the investigations and before his referral to trial.