EGYPT: Poet accused of insulting Mubarak awaits final verdict
Mounir Saied Hanna was arrested in May after authorities charged that 15 of his poems cast the president in a less than flattering light. On June 27 he was sentenced to prison and fined. However, the court's decision was appealed on the basis that he did not have a lawyer during the investigation phase. A new verdict is expected by Saturday.
Under Egyptian law, any citizen who publicly insults the president can be imprisoned for between 24 hours and three years. Hanna's lawyer was stunned that his client received the maximum penalty. "The court's ruling is illegitimate and very harsh. It is clear evidence of the regime's position toward freedom of speech," said Hamdi El Assiouty, who is also a legal counselor for the Arabian Network for Human Rights.
"Hanna's poems were about his and other people's everyday lives, but they were put out of context by the attorney general," El Assiouty said.
Meanwhile, Hanna's brother pleaded for a presidential pardon, adding that the poems never intended to insult Mubarak. "Mounir started writing poetry less than two years ago, and all he wished for was to be noticed by an artist or a singer who can use his lyrics," Hanna Saied Hanna said.
"I know that later on he started writing poems about social issues like unemployment and the rise of prices, but he didn’t mean to criticize the president," the poet's brother said. "His poems were not officially published and were only read by a handful of friends anyway."
Hanna Saied Hanna brother added that none of his family members imagined the case would lead to such a harsh verdict and therefore didn't hire a lawyer during the initial investigations. None of the poems named Mubarak. One of them cited by the general prosecutor reads:
Shine, shine whom you shine on all of us
Shine, shine whom you shine wherever you go
No one can shine like you shine
You made people feel confused and lost
You made people feel happy and lost
-- Amro Hassan in Cairo
Photo: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Credit: Reuters