Trial of EIPR Director Hossam Bahgat begins Tuesday over “insulting Elections Commission”
A Cairo court is scheduled to begin the trial of Hossam Bahgat, Executive Director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), on Tuesday, 7 September, for “insulting the National Elections Authority (NEA)”. The charge relates to a tweet Bahgat posted last year, in which he criticised the conduct of the former head of the NEA, the late judge Ibrahim Lasheen, and his role in overseeing the electoral process of the House of Representatives (HoR) elections in 2020.
The case, registered with No. 1592/2021, will be heard by the third circuit of the Economic Misdemeanours Court in Maadi.
Bahgat was questioned in relation to this case once last June by the Public Prosecution before he was indicted for three charges:
“He insulted publicly, and in writing, the NEA, by publishing on his personal accounts on social media websites (Facebook and Twitter) phrases and expressions that included such insult;...and [claiming] that the NEA oversights and management of the 2020 HoR elections entailed fraud that altered the announced results of the elections;
“He published, with malice, through his personal pages on social media websites (Facebook and Twitter) posts that included false news and rumors, claiming that the NEA rigged the results of the HoR Elections of 2020, which had the effect of disturbing public peace and harming public interest;
“He created, managed and used personal accounts on Facebook and Twitter, with the intent of committing the two crimes mentioned above.”
Bahagt’s defense team will comprise lawyers Negad El Borai, Ahmed Raghed, and Hoda Nasralla.
EIPR said the indictment of its Executive Director for the first time, based on the expression of his opinions in a year-old tweet, constitutes the newest round in an ongoing, years-long campaign of harassment and prosecutions targeting the organization for its work in defense of human rights. The campaign started with Bahgat facing prosecution, an assets freeze and a travel ban in the infamous case No 173, known as the “NGOs foreign funding case”. In February 2020, Patrick George Zaki, an EIPR researcher, was arrested and has been kept in pretrial detention ever since facing baseless charges. This persecution escalated by the end of 2020 with the arrest of three of EIPR’s directors, Mohamed Basheer, Karim Ennarah, and Gasser Abdel-Razek, and interrogating them about EIPR’s work, before they were charged with belonging to a terrorist organisation. They were released later but the charges against them still stand, and all three were banned from travel and had their assets frozen “pending investigations”.
“This harassment will not deter EIPR from the work it started 19 years ago, and continued to do under successive regimes, in defense of the rights of all Egyptians to dignity, freedom and equity”, the organization said today.