Journalist Amr Badr issued a statement Monday clarifying his version of the incidents that led to the trial of the Press Syndicate’s president and two board members, and the verdict sentencing them to prison time on Saturday.
Badr’s main argument was that no one had been officially informed that he was wanted by the judiciary. This was also mentioned in his official testimony.
Syndicate president Yehia Qalash, secretary general Gamal Abdul Reheem, and board member Khaled El-Balshy were charged by the court with harbouring wanted suspects (Badr and journalist Mahmoud Al-Saqqa), plotting, and helping the two evade justice.
Badr and Al-Saqqa went to the syndicate on 30 April. “We were not officially informed of an arrest warrant issued for us. We went to the syndicate to announce a strike in objection to the repeated raids on our houses but we were not running away from anything,” Badr wrote on Facebook Monday.
According to Badr, syndicate board member Mahmoud Kamel tried to inquire about arrest warrants at the police station but was told there was no information. “It seems even the police station didn’t know about these alleged warrants,” Badr said.
The journalist said they suspected that arrest warrants could have been issued and so decided to act upon it. “I agreed with [Qalash] that in case there were warrants, we should head to the prosecution authorities with the syndicate’s legal representative,” Badr said.
In the meantime, Qalash had been contacting officials from the executive and judicial authorities to find out more about the journalists’ status.
According to the court’s reasoning, they were planning to go to the prosecution after two consecutive days of national holidays.
“We decided to spend those nights at the syndicate,” Badr said, adding that they had barely seen Abdul Reheem and El-Balshy who were heading to Morocco that day, and were actually there when the raid took place.
Yet, the court’s reasoning relied on security reports asserting that Badr and Al-Saqqa sought to escape arrest warrants issued for them by taking shelter at the Press Syndicate, which in turn chose to help them hide despite knowing they were wanted by the judiciary.
But the defendants and the journalists denied these charges, and accused the Interior Ministry of breaking into the syndicate on 1 May in violation of the law and in an unprecedented assault on its headquarters.
On the other hand, security reports argued the opposite: that Badr and Al-Saqqa went to the syndicate with the help of the three defendants in an attempt to avoid them being arrested.
Among the evidence used in the case were copies of articles published on Al-Bedaiah website, whose editor-in-chief is El-Balshy, the third defendant in the case. The reports said that the articles were published on 29 and 30 April announcing the house raids and the journalists’ open strike at the syndicate.
However, the chronological details were different. On 30 April, Al-Bedaiah published an article that portrayed Badr and Al-Saqqa’s condemnations of repeated raids on their homes, upon claims by security forces that the prosecution issued search warrants. The article did not mention arrest warrants or the syndicate.
The article featured a letter by Badr saying that the police stormed his home while he was absent, and that he wishes to file an official complaint regarding the robbery of his personal belongings, including a camera and a laptop.
On 30 April, Al-Bedaiah published an article saying: “Badr and Al-Saqqa launched an open strike at the syndicate in objection to arbitrary security measures against them.” According to El-Balshy, this came after the two had come to the syndicate and announced their plans.
The Press Syndicate strongly condemned the police raid of 1 May and argued that the institution should have been officially notified about the arrest warrants by the Ministry of Interior. In this case, there would have been compliance, according to the law, which requires at least the presence of the president of the syndicate or his representative during the arrest.