Egypt TV News Chief Gets 18 Years
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CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ In an unusually harsh punishment, a court has sentenced the news director of Egypt’s state-owned television station to 18 years of hard labor in prison on bribery and drug charges.
Mohammed el-Wakil also was fined 113,000 Egyptian pounds, or about $24,300, by the court on Tuesday.
Another defendant in the case, university lecturer Fakher Fuad, received a five-year sentence for bribing el-Wakil.
TV producers Ahmed el-Hasisy and Hani Abdel Latif pleaded guilty to charges of mediating in delivering the bribe to el-Wakil. They were acquitted because they testified against el-Wakil.
The only legal recourse available to el-Wakil, who broke into tears on hearing his verdict, is to appeal to the Court of Cessation, which would either uphold the verdict or order a retrial.
The case came as President Hosni Mubarak’s government wages an anti-corruption campaign to address foreign investors’ complaints that doing business in Egypt means dealing with corrupt officials.
Dozens of senior officials and former ministers have been convicted or are awaiting trial on corruption charges. However, many Egyptians believe the anti-graft drive is selective, allowing some corrupt businessmen to evade justice because of their political links.
El-Wakil’s case has caused a sensation in Egypt, where many believe that guests appear on TV shows in exchange for money.
Police have maintained that they taped el-Wakil accepting a bribe from a potential guest on ``Good Morning, Egypt,″ a popular morning TV show that hosts politicians as well as professionals, academics and artists. He also was charged with possession of seven grams of hashish found during a July search of his office.
El-Wakil had pleaded innocent to all charges and suggested that he was on trial for allowing TV reporters more freedom to report.
He was arrested in July at his office in a sting operation set up by state security officials and the Administrative Monitoring Office, which investigates corruption in government departments. Police said he was arrested while taking a bribe of 10,000 Egyptian pounds, or $2,155, that a doctor had paid to appear as a guest on ``Good Morning, Egypt.″