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Egypt puts members of journalists' union on trial

Three union members have gone on trial in Cairo after a sit-in by opposition journalists. The trial comes amid a growing crackdown on free speech in Egypt.

The trial of union head Yahya Qalash and board members Khaled el-Balshy and Gamal Abdel-Rahim began on Saturday, although it was quickly adjourned until June 18.

The three men were

briefly arrested last week

after Egyptian authorities raided the union's office where two opposition journalists were staging a sit-in. They are charged with spreding false news, as well as harboring the two wanted journalists.

The union was once seen as one of the few organizations in which the government would tolerate freedom of speech, so analysts say the arrests represent an intensified crackdown on dissent.

Ongoing crackdown

"Today's session was procedural. We requested postponement of the trial in order to have time to examine the case's papers," a defense lawyer told German news agency DPA.

Following Saturday's session, Qalash, el-Balshy and Abdel-Rahim were seen exiting the courthouse holding hands. Supporters had crowded around outside and greeted the trio with chants of "Long live the struggle of journalists!"

Last week, international human rights group Amnesty International condemned the trial, calling it part of a "draconian" effort by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to crack down on freedom of speech and other civil liberties.

blc/jm (dpa, AP)

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