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Egyptian government to put political figures on trial for insulting judiciary

By Laura King
Los Angeles Times

CAIRO: Egyptian officials said Sunday that two dozen figures from across the political spectrum — deposed president Mohamed Morsi among them — would stand trial for insulting the judiciary.

The move, reported by state media, suggested no easing of authoritarian measures adopted by the interim government in recent months to suppress dissent. It also came one day after Egyptian authorities hailed overwhelming approval of a new constitution, with official results showing that more than 98 percent of voters had endorsed the new national charter.

During its six months in power, the military-backed administration has waged a harsh campaign against Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s largest and oldest Islamist movement, but has also moved against secularists. In the past two months, many have run afoul of a new law that in effect criminalizes street protests.

The new case includes 24 other politicians, media personalities, activists and lawyers, accused in separate incidents of insulting the judiciary in public, on television or on social media websites over the past three years. They include some of Egypt’s prominent youth activists, including Alaa Abdel-Fattah, former lawmaker Mostafa el-Naggar, and liberal former lawmaker Amr Hamzawy as well as rights lawyer Amir Salem.

The referral also includes figures who were at odds with Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, such as TV personality Tawfiq Okasha, known for lambasting revolutionary groups, the military, and the Brotherhood. The offense is punishable by up to six months in prison, a fine, or both.

This is the fourth court case to be opened against Morsi, who is due in the criminal dock again next week. A court appearance set for Jan. 8 was abruptly canceled when authorities decided not to transport him from his high-security prison to the court venue, citing bad weather.

Egyptians soon will mark the third anniversary of the uprising that drove longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak from power. Some of those swept up in a recent wave of arrests and charges include well-known figures from the mass protests centered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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