File - Director of Suleiman Khater play, Ahmed El-Garhy
CAIRO - 26 July 2018: A military court sentenced six actors to suspended two-month imprisonment on Wednesday, over accusations of insulting the Armed Forces in a play named “Suleiman Khater”, to be released within days after spending four months in prison.
The six defendants include playwright and director of the play, who were accused of insulting the Armed Forces, using military uniform without permission, and showcasing a play without the approval of the censorship authority.
Playwright Waleed Atef and director Ahmed El-Garhy were arrested in March were arrested following their show at Giza’s Shooting Club, over a report filed by lawyer Samir Sabri, who accused them of mocking the Egyptian army’s role in fighting state’s enemies.
Since the play concerns the Armed Forces, the artists were referred to the military tribunal for prosecution.
The suspended sentence is a judicial verdict which is not enforced unless a further crime is committed during a specified period, and it would be dismissed in case the defendant did not commit an illegal action during the period he should have been spent in prison and if the defendant performed a period of probation.
The arrest of the six actors caused a controversy amongst artists, some defended their right in expressing their opinion and some saw that they crossed the line; however, nobody could confirm how the play insulted the army. In a statement released in March, the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights voiced concerns over the arrest of Garhy and Atef, saying that such decisions and accusations violate the constitutional right of freedom expression.
In an interview with Ahmed Moussa past February, Garhy denied the accusations, saying that the play was misunderstood.
“We cannot and shouldn’t mock the Armed Forces. No civilian can mock someone defends him,” Garhy told Moussa on his talk show “Ala Maso’lity aired on Sada al-Balad TV channel on February 28.
The play is about a police conscript called Suleiman Khater who opened fire on seven Israeli tourists in Sinai killing six of them in 1985, during Hosni Mubarak tenure. The only survivor was a 5-year-old girl who was shielded by her mother, according to some reports.
Khater was sentenced to life in prison. However, he was found dead inside his cell after spending about a year in prison. The Egyptian authorities and official reports said that Khater hung himself to death.
Police conscripts are part of the Armed Forces, not Interior Ministry.
In March, Parliamentarian Solaf Darwish submitted a five-article draft law to criminalize acts of defamation against the Armed Forces and police.
Article 1 stipulates that those who publicly insult or publish things to defame or abuse the Armed Forces or police, or incite another person to commit an act or say something against the police and Armed Forces shall be punished with at least three years in prison and a LE 10,000 fine.
The penalty could be doubled by suspending the newspaper that continues to publish fake news to insult the Armed Forces and police.
Anyone who distributes and displays photos that lead to the defamation of both the Armed Forces and police by any means shall be punished with at least five years in jail and a LE 5,000 fine.
Law enforcement officers shall seize writings, photos and any other means to defame the Armed Forces and police, and then refer the crime to the Public Prosecution. If the Public Prosecution acknowledges the crimes, it shall file them to the Court of First Instance that shall issue its decree after the hearings. The decree cannot be appealed.