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Egyptian Newspaper Editor Sentenced to Jail


An Egyptian court has sentenced the editor of one of Egypt's leading opposition newspapers to six months in jail for publishing an article containing statements about Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's health. Aya Batrawy has more from our Middle East bureau in Cairo.

Newspaper editor Ibrahim Eissa was sentenced Wednesday by an Egyptian court to six months hard labor in jail for publishing an article last year about health problems facing Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak.

He was found guilty of damaging the national economy, although bankers have said it was difficult to link the drop in foreign investment at the time to the articles that were published.

Central Bank officials testified in court that investments of up to $350 million left the country on the days that Al-Dustour published the reports on the president's health.

Publishing news about the health of the 79-year-old president, in power for more than 26 years, is risky in Egypt.

Last year, Eissa was sentenced along with three other newspaper editors to a year in prison in a separate case for defaming Mr. Mubarak and his ruling National Democratic party. That trial also concerned newspaper articles about the president's health.

Eissa is one of the president's most outspoken critics. He has had run-ins with Egyptian authorities in the past. The paper was shut down for nearly seven years at one point.

The editor says the latest sentence sheds light on the limits to press freedom in Egypt.

He says Wednesday's verdict proves that Mr. Mubarak's government crushes the international right to freedom of expression. He says Mr. Mubarak is telling the world he is not concerned with international law.

Gasser Abdel-Razek, of New-York based Human Rights Watch, says the arrests of journalists will have a chilling effect and lead to self-censorship among Egyptian writers and reporters.

"Just a month ago Al-Jazeera reporter was fined 20,000 Egyptian pounds for producing a report on torture. Definitely Eissa's ruling today is adding to an already restrictive and scary atmosphere for reporters and writers in Egypt," said Abdel-Razek.

Eissa has been out on bail since the trial began in September and has continued working throughout the trial.