CAIRO, Egypt – President Hosni Mubarak has pardoned a newspaper editor sentenced last week to two months in prison over reports about the Egyptian leader's health, a statement from the president's office said Monday.
Ibrahim Eissa was convicted by a lower court in March of publishing false information about Mubarak's health when he reported that the 80-year-old president was ailing. The judges said at the time that the series of articles were a threat to national stability, and had caused jittery foreign investors to flee the country. Eissa was then sentenced to six months.
State Security prosecutors later appealed the verdict, arguing it was too light. But a Cairo appeals court a week ago upheld the guilty verdict and sentenced Eissa to two months.
Eissa has run into legal trouble with the Egyptian government before. His newspaper, Al-Dustour, has been sharply critical of the regime and often broke political, social and religious taboos in its articles. It was closed in 1998 for seven years by the government after it published a statement by an Islamist group threatening Coptic Christian businessmen in Egypt.
Also, Eissa was convicted in 2006 for libeling Mubarak but only paid a fine at the time.
The latest verdict against him has been condemned by local and international rights groups which describe it as part of ongoing curtailment of freedom of expression in Egypt.
Some in the Egyptian journalism community did not feel relieved by the presidential pardon.
"I don't feel gratitude for the pardoning," said Hisham Kassem, a Cairo newspaper publisher. "Mubarak needs to answer when he will put an end once and for all to the issue of jailing journalists. Until then, there will always be harassment of different types."
President Hosni Mubarak has been in office for more than a quarter of a century and has no obvious successor, making any speculation about his health a very sensitive topic.