An Egyptian court has sentenced the chairman of a journalists' union along with two board members to two years in prison, after six months of trial, for harboring two "fugitive" journalists inside the union's headquarters.
The verdict was issued in absentia but the syndicate lawyer Said Abu Zaid told Asharq al-Awsat that they will appeal the verdict after paying the bail.
The defendants include syndicate president Yehia Qalash, secretary general Gamal Abdul Reheem, and head of the syndicate's Freedoms Committee Khaled El-Balshy. "We have committed no crime", Qallash said, in comments reported by independent newspaper al-Shorouk.
In March 2014, an Egyptian court sentenced 529 members of the Muslim Brotherhood (an Egyptian rebel group) to death - a decision described by human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, as the largest single-batch of simultaneous death sentences that the world has seen in recent years.
Union officials called for an emergency syndicate meeting this weekend to discuss how to respond to the verdict.
Prosecutors ordered the three men to be questioned in May after what their lawyer Sayyed Abou Zeid said at the time was a police raid on the syndicate headquarters to arrest two opposition journalists who had taken refuge there. This is the first time in the union's 75-year history that such a thing has happened.
Egyptian journalists hold up their cameras outside the Egyptian Press Syndicate in downtown Cairo, Egypt April 28, 2016, during a protest against the interior minister following the arrest of colleagues for covering anti-government demonstrations.
"Egypt is one of the worst countries in terms of detention of journalists and comes second after China", Ahmed added.
Kallash has also condemned the arrest of El Sakka and Badr, sparking mass protests from journalists.
The European Union said the the indictment of the journalists reflected "broader limitations on freedom of expression and press freedom in Egypt".