A Cairo appeals court starts considering Shohdy Surur's case

Press Release

25 August 2002

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) and the Hisham Mubarak Law Center (HMLC) have both announced today their resolute solidarity with Shohdy, son of late poet and playwright Naguib Surur, whose appeal starts tomorrow (Monday, 26 August) before the Sayyeda Zeinab Appeals Court of Misdemeanors at the Southern Cairo Courthouse in Bab al-Khalq.

The Sayyeda Zeinab Court of Misdemeanors had sentenced Shohdy on 30 June to one year in prison and a 200-pound bond. The court found Shohdy guilty of the possession and distribution of a colloquial poem that his deceased father wrote between 1969-1974, known as the Ummeyyat. The poem, posted by Shohdy on an Internet site, contained phrases that, according to the court, violated public morality. Thus, the court of first instance issued its aforementioned verdict in case no. 14121/2001, in accordance with article 178 of the Penal Code, which criminalizes the possession of immoral material for sale or distribution with the intention of corrupting morality.

Both EIPR and HMLC see this case as a dangerous precedent posing a serious threat to freedom of expression, freedom and privacy of the Internet and freedom of cultural and artistic innovation. The two organizations are also deeply concerned that Surur is now being held accountable for a poem written by his father who died in 1978 while the poet himself was never punished for writing it. The case is a clear violation of the right to freedom of expression as stated in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), which lies at the heart of the international customary law, as well as article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), ratified by the Egyptian government in 1982 and, hence, legally binding to the State.

A defense team of human rights defenders was formed to represent Surur in the trial. The team includes, in addition to the lawyers of EIPR and HMLC, a number of prominent human rights lawyers, such as Nabil al-Hilaly, Abdalla Khalil and Gamal Abdel Aziz. The two organizations are also planning to launch an international campaign of solidarity with Surur in defense of Internet freedom in Egypt.

A group of Cairo Vice Squad officers arrested Shohdy Surur at his house at 4 a.m. on 22 November 2001. On the same day, he was referred to the Sayyeda Zeinab Prosecutor's Office, which ordered his release with a 1000-pound bond. However, Surur remained in illegal detention for three days until he was released. 3 March 2002 marked the beginning of his trial, which ended with the above-mentioned verdict.

For more information please contact:
Ahmed Seif al-Islam Hamad: Executive director, the Hisham Mubarak Law Center,
tel.: 362 5784, hmlc@link.net