A "misdemeanour 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.