Egyptian workers' leader sentenced to six months in prison
March 1, 2012
A "misdemeanor court" in Helwan, near Cairo, has sentenced Kamal Abbas, general coordinator of the Centre for Trade Union and Workers' Services (CTUWS), to six months in prison for "insulting a public officer".
That would be bad enough. But the public officer in question is one of the leaders of Egypt's pre-revolutionary, government-controlled "unions"!
At a session of the International Labour Organisation last June, representatives of the CTUWS and the new independent unions clashed with representatives of the state-run "Egyptian Trade Union Federation". Abbas is supposed to have "insulted" the ETUF's acting president Ismail Ibrahim Fahmy, because he criticised the role of the ETUF and rejected the idea it represents or can represent Egyptian workers. (See here for the CTUWS's report.)
Abbas, who visited the UK last year on a tour organised by the TUC, the FBU and Egypt Workers' Solidarity, was sentenced in absentia; he is appealing and now waiting for a new court date.
This is an attack on freedom of expression but also on Egypt's independent workers' movement, which comes in the context of continued militant struggles by the Egyptian working class - despite the military regime's attempts to ban strikes. It must be resisted. Check back for more information on solidarity actions soon.
• For more information see the CTUWS website.
Egypt: Drop the charges against Kamal Abbas
On February 26 a Misdemeanor court in the city of Helwan sentenced Kamal Abbas, the general coordinator of CTUWS, in absentia, to six months imprisonment for “insulting a public officer” during the 2011 International Labour Conference in Geneva. The sentence refers to Thursday 9 June 2011, when Kamal Abbas interrupted Ismael Fahmy while he was delivering a speech to the Conference.
Kamal Abbas, who attended the Conference as a representative on the ITUC delegation, is accused of expressing his objection to the claim that the old state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation truly represented Egyptian workers.
The international trade union movement is extremely concerned by this sentence against Brother Abbas, and its implications for Freedom of Association, Freedom of Expression, and democracy in Egypt.
We ask you to take part in this campaign to pressure the Egyptian authorities to immediately withdraw all charges, annul the sentence, and to refrain from any further harassment against trade unionists or other civil society representatives for the exercise of their legitimate activities.
Click here to sign petition for the dropping of all charges against Kamal Abbas.