Lawsuits for Insulting President Soar Under Mursi

President Mohamed Mursi’s first 200 days in office have seen more lawsuits filed on charges of “insulting the president” than all Egyptian rulers since 1892, a leading rights group said, while another report laid out charges of continued police brutality since the revolution.

About 24 lawsuits for insulting Mursi have been filed against journalists and activists since his election in June, the Arab Network for Human Rights said in a report. Under ousted President Hosni Mubarak, four such cases were filed, the group said. Only one case was filed under Anwar Sadat and five under King Farouk, it said. None were recorded during the rule of Gamal Abdel Nasser, when more violent methods were often used to suppress criticism.

The report, issued days before the second anniversary of the start of the 2011 uprising that ousted Mubarak, comes as Mursi faces growing criticism at home over his stewardship of the Arab world’s most populous nation.

His secularist, minority Christian and youth activist critics charge him with devoting more energy to cementing the power of the Muslim Brotherhood than to running the country. They are planning mass rallies on Jan. 25 against what they describe as the “Brotherhoodization” of Egypt.

Mursi has vowed to uphold press freedom. The Brotherhood has said the media are biased against Islamists, and accused them of stoking unrest that has hampered economic recovery and led to protests and clashes.

TV Hosts

High-profile cases include television host Tawfiq Okasha, who was acquitted on Jan. 8 of insulting and incitement to kill Mursi, though his al-Faraeen satellite channel remains off air. The country’s top prosecutor, appointed by Mursi, also ordered an investigation into television comedian Bassem Youssef, whose satirical program is modeled on Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show,” following a complaint he insulted the president.

Separately, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights said at a press conference in Cairo today that it has documented at least 10 deaths in police stations and prisons, and 11 cases of unlawful killing of citizens by security forces between June and November last year.

“Although the January revolution was sparked in large part by police practices and vocally demanded an end to these practices,” the situation remains unchanged, the group said in the report.

Torture Death

It screened a video report into the death of Atef El-Mansy, who it said died as a result of torture in a police station where he had attempted to file a complaint against police aggression. When angry local people gathered around the station, police fired at them and another person was killed, the report said.

Separately, 46 people were injured in clashes today between security forces at a police station in the Mediterranean city of Marsa Matrouh and residents in the area, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported. The violence erupted after an attempt to help detainees escape, it said without elaborating.

Mursi issued a decree in November that he said would guarantee the rights of those killed or injured by security forces in last year’s uprising, and ensure retrials for officials under Mubarak who were accused of responsibility.

Magda Boutros, a researcher at EIPR, said the law actually served as a cover for the creation of “a special prosecutorial office with permanent exceptional authorities whose members are chosen by the public prosecutor, himself chosen unilaterally by the president.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Salma El Wardany in Cairo at selwardany@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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