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Egypt appeals court hands journalists suspended jail sentence

Three Egyptian journalists have seen their jail sentences reduced by a Cairo appeals court. Critics argue the case is part of a larger crackdown on free speech in the country.

Ägypten Yahiya Kallash (Getty Images/AFP/M. El-Shahed)

Yahiya Kallash (pictured) and two other journalists have received reduced sentences

The court on Saturday reduced the sentences of the former head of Egypt's journalist union and two of its members, who were charged for spreading "false news" back in May.

Union chief Yahiya Kallash, Gamal Abdul-Rahim and Gamal Abd el-Rahim were arrested after criticizing authorities for raiding the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate in order to detain two other journalists wanted for inciting street protests. The two journalists arrested initially, Mahmoud El Sakka and Amr Badr, who worked for opposition website Bawabet Yanayer, faced charges of spreading lies and owning a firearm.

Appeals court reviews case

Eventually, Kallash and his colleagues were charged with "harboring suspects against whom an arrest warrant has been issued," in addition to "spreading false news." In November, the three men were sentenced to two years in prison by a misdemeanor court, but they were released on bail and filed an appeal.

After reviewing the case, the appeals court handed the men reduced one-year suspended jail sentences. The new ruling can also be appealed.

Activists have criticized the case, calling it a "dangerous escalation of the Egyptian authorities' draconian clampdown on freedom of expression." President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi is often criticized for trying to suppress opposition as the country grows increasingly dissatisfied with his government.

blc/kl (AFP, dpa)

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