Egypt is part of the American “axis of the rightful” and is usually praised by Washington for upholding all the goodies of democracy. On 1 February 2009, Magdi Hussein, a journalist and former editor of the Al Shaab newspaper, was arrested for having crossed into Gaza. He was held up on silly charges, and then sentenced by a military tribunal to two years in jail… Obviously, Hussein’s greater crime was criticizing the Egyptian collaborationist role with Israel in the December 2008 on Gaza. Even voicing the slightest support for the Palestinians or criticism of the Mubarak dictatorship can land journalists or solidarity activists in jail. It is worth reading Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani’s, Electronic Intifada article:
While in the Gaza Strip, governed by Palestinian resistance faction Hamas, Hussein witnessed the destruction wrought by Israel’s recent campaign, during which more than 1,300 Palestinians were killed, and infrastructure demolished. Hussein visited numerous bombed-out mosques and homes, as well as the badly damaged Palestinian parliament building, Gaza’s Islamic University and the al-Shifa Hospital, teeming with critically injured civilians.
While in Gaza, Hussein also spoke to the Hamas-run Al-Aqsa television channel and Sout al-Aqsa radio station. In live interviews, he criticized Egypt’s official stance vis-a-vis the conflict, particularly Egypt’s insistence on keeping the Rafah border crossing closed to both people and badly needed humanitarian aid.
Ever since Hamas wrested control of the strip in the summer of 2007, Egypt — like Israel — has kept its border with the territory sealed for the most part. Despite the increasingly desperate need for food, medicine and fuel supplies among Gaza’s roughly 1.5 million people, Egyptian authorities have continued to keep the border sealed both during and after the conflict.
Given the sensitive nature of the border area, which has come under frequent Israeli attack in recent weeks, Hussein’s expedition was not treated lightly by the authorities.
On 5 February, he was brought before a military tribunal in the canal city of Ismailiya on charges of “illicitly infiltrating across Egypt’s eastern border.” Independent daily Al-Bedeel reported the next day that Hussein’s lawyers had been banned from the courtroom and that his defense would be conducted by three state-appointed military attorneys.
In a second court session on 11 February, Hussein was slapped with a sentence of two years in prison in addition to a monetary fine. Outside the courtroom, security forces reportedly beat back dozens of Hussein’s supporters who had gathered to protest the harsh verdict.