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Egyptian Charged For Threatening Facebook Post 101

Posted by timothy
from the gotta-be-gentle-with-that-thing dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Egyptian Military Prosecution has charged 26-year-old activist and blogger Asmaa Mahfouz for allegedly defaming the country's ruling generals and calling for armed operations against the military and the judiciary. Mahfouz, a prominent activist, was accused of using Facebook to call for the assassinations of Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) members and certain judges."
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Egyptian Charged For Threatening Facebook Post

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  • by intellitech (1912116) * on Monday August 15, 2011 @01:56AM (#37091562)

    Freedom of Speech typically does not permit incitement to violence.

    Furthermore, inciting harm to powerful leaders, regardless of motivation or full intent, is probably not wise (and especially so in an unstable nation). And, if you follow through and do so, you best make yourself hard to find, and go completely off grid. Otherwise, you'll likely be caught, and you'll find yourself in a very uncomfortable situation, to say the least.

    Freedom of Speech does not protect all speech. It only permits speech that can hurt people’s feelings, but it does not permit speech that can cause objective harm to people’s bodies, possessions or liberty.

    Source (for more in-depth reading on the subject): http://www.themoralliberal.com/2011/02/18/on-freedom-of-speech-and-incitement-to-violence/ [themoralliberal.com]

    • by jhoegl (638955)
      Yes, even in the USA this would be illegal.
      Although some may feel you should be able to say whatever you want, you would be wrong. As a society feeds off itself for its strength and can deteriorate with its own weaknesses.
      This should be apparent and obvious to anyone whom has taken part in a society.
      • Although some may feel you should be able to say whatever you want, you would be wrong.

        What? They'd be wrong for having a preference? How does that work?

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Although some may feel you should be able to say whatever you want, you would be wrong.

          What? They'd be wrong for having a preference? How does that work?

          Their opinion is different from mine, hence wrong.

          • by Doc Ruby (173196)

            If my opinion is that you're not entitled to your opinion, then my opinion is wrong. There's a lot more wrong opinions possible, and wrong opinions held very widely.

            BTW, you're entitled to be wrong. You're not entitled to do anything to me that I don't want when you're wrong. Opinions are more complex than just saying you have one, so you're immune to any criticism or limit.

      • by metacell (523607) on Monday August 15, 2011 @02:58AM (#37091736)

        Have you read the article?

        This was what Mahfouz allegedly wrote, translated from Arabic:
        “If justice is not achieved and the justice system fails us, no-one should feel upset or surprised if armed gangs emerge to carry out assassinations. As long as there is no law and there is no justice, anything can happen, and nobody should be upset.”

        Sounds a little too vague to me to constitute an illegal threat. Or as Mahfouz herself said:
        "There is no truth in these accusations, I was only warning the military council that the absence of justice will lead to chaos."

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Sounds a little too vague to me to constitute an illegal threat.

          Are you basing that on one particular translation or on a sound understanding of the subtle nuances of Arabic?

          • by metacell (523607)

            On the translation, since it was what the parent was basing his conclusion on. The burden of proof is always on the accuser, not the accused.

          • by Shompol (1690084)
            I am fully proficient in two languages. Every time some important statement is translated (on Slashdot in particular), dozens of skeptics crop up who question what was lost in translation. The answer is: NOTHING OF VALUE. Seriously. Translation, when performed by a human being, is a much more exact science than you seem to believe.
            Of course, there are "subtle nuances" that you speak of, but they are just that -- subtle nuances. They do not change the meaning.
        • by rtb61 (674572)

          Oddly enough it could only be counted as a threat if, "The Supreme Council of Armed Forces" fully intend not to provide justice. It would seem by this arrest "The Supreme Council of Armed Forces" intend to become the new autocratic power and deny justice to the citizens of Egypt.

          This sort of over sensitivity is just a public display of guilt and criminal intent. It all smells of a military junta, conspiring to create a illusory pretend democracy subject to the approval of Israel and the US, so that the E

      • This should be apparent and obvious to anyone whom has taken part in a society.

        This society sounds dull and boring. Count me out!

      • by salesgeek (263995)

        In the US, public officials have no protection from criticism at all. We can and do call our President, bureaucrats, military officers and elected representatives from the Senate to the dog catcher, all kinds of names. In the case of Generals, only members of the military can get in trouble for criticizing or lampooning them. Civilians can say what they want to. In fact, we require our military members who are leaving the service to use up their leave just so they don't exercise their new-found civilian fre

      • Stolen by Generals.

        "And the men who cheered us on/ Stand in judgement of our wrongs"

    • Only he didn't threaten or incite anything.

      "If the judiciary doesn’t give us our rights, nobody should be surprised if militant groups appear and conduct a series of assassinations because there is no law and there is no judiciary,” Mahfouz wrote on Facebook, according to the official Middle East News Agency (MENA). Another translation (from Arabic) reads: “If justice is not achieved and the justice system fails us, no-one should feel upset or surprised if armed gangs emerge to carry out

    • Freedom of Speech typically does not permit incitement to violence.

      Actually, if the law simply said that citizens had "freedom of speech" and listed no exceptions, I'd say that would mean absolute freedom of speech. The sole statement "freedom of speech," to me, implies absolutely free speech (but the law can just list exceptions).

      • by metacell (523607)

        The American constitution doesn't list the exceptions to freedom of speech, but American courts still assume that things like fraud, slander and yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theatre are not covered by it. Which probably is a good thing.

        The European Convention On Human Rights explicitly allows limitations on freedom of speech which are "necessary in a free and democratic society", but it keeps the exception vague and up to the courts to interpret.

        • Right. You aren't allowed to falsely shout "FIRE" in a crowded theater. It follows, therefore, that you are also not allowed to advocate opposition to the draft [wikipedia.org]

          I feel obliged to point out that this is no longer good law [wikipedia.org]

          • by metacell (523607)

            Saying that opposition to draft is a "clear and present danger" is ludicrous. It's, at most, a danger at some other place at some time in the future. Freedom of speech always tends to get mangled during times of war.

            Which is one of the reasons we shouldn't allow ourselves to be fooled into believing we are in a war, for example, a "war against terrorism". Politicians exaggerate the external threats to justify impopular decisions.

        • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Monday August 15, 2011 @03:50AM (#37091878)

          Which probably is a good thing.

          I don't know about that. Letting them make exceptions as they please (instead of creating an amendment or going through the proper procedures) isn't wise, in my opinion.

          • by metacell (523607)

            Good point.

          • The problem with exceptions as constitutional amendments is that, although they're more difficult to create, they're also more difficult for a subsequent government to remove.

            • That's too bad. I'd rather have them be more difficult to remove than let them take the easy way out. And I doubt that there would be a time when they needed removal, anyway. But, if there was, then getting the necessary amount of support would be required. I don't think there's anything bad about that.

    • by kdemetter (965669)

      Problem is , what exactly is 'incitement to violence" .
      In this case, there's no doubt though : calling to have people executed , is certainly incitement to violence.

      It's a thin border , and there are people who will always be incited , regardless of what you say , because they just want an excuse to be violent.

      • by kdemetter (965669)

        Having read the article now ( should do that more often ) , i don't think this is a case of 'incitement to violence though' .
        He's stating a fact, namely that if you are not giving the people rights , people will eventually take matters into their own hands.

        So he's giving arguments for giving rights to people , in order to prevent violence.
        This is part of why you have a Constitution : "to ensure domestic tranquility"

        • by pnewhook (788591)
          It's a SHE. Why does everyone think the activist is male?
          • by kdemetter (965669)

            Sorry , i couldn't make that out from 'Asmaa Mahfouz' . Again , had i read the article in full, i might have realized that. Guess i'm just lazy today.

            Still , that doesn't change anything : she is not inciting violence.
            On the other hand, seeing the violence done to women in these countries, i would applaud her even if she did.

    • by he-sk (103163)

      One of the the following statements is an incitement of violence while the other is just expressing a dickish attitude:

      The ruling generals are scumbags and it is the duty of every Egyptian to shoot them on sight.

      And:

      If justice is not achieved and the justice system fails us, no-one should feel upset or surprised if armed gangs emerge to carry out assassinations. As long as there is no law and there is no justice, anything can happen, and nobody should be upset.

      Guess which is which. Now guess which one the story is about.

      • by kdemetter (965669)

        I'm not sure what's dickish about it ( the second phrase obviously ) : it's a warning , a concern.

        You could just as well be saying " If you keep allowing banks to take high risks , don't be surprised if the savings of your people are one day at risk " .
        Or , in a more personal setting : "if you keep eating all that junk food , don't be surprised if you gain a few pounds"

        He seeing a flawed system, and it's possible results , and he's warning about it. If there were more people like him , the world would be

        • by he-sk (103163)

          He's also saying that people should not be upset if somebody gets shot. Which makes him a dick in my book.

          • by kdemetter (965669)

            They shouldn't be upset when someone gets shot , in the same way that someone you warned about eating donuts shouldn't be upset when they gained a few pounds.

            In other words : Those that close their eyes when freedom is taken away , do not have the right to be upset when people take matters into there own hands to take them back.

            • by he-sk (103163)

              Every death is a tragedy. 'Nuff said.

              As for your eating analogy, you should read up on how addiction works.

            • Say what you want but don't be surprised when statements like those posted by the blogger provides the final piece of motivation and justification to those who will gladly start the killing. Freedom of speech in any country has never come guaranteed freedom from risk or consequences. Such as approaching someone in the US and expressing your freedom of speech in their face which they happen to take exception with and end up knocking your teeth out. As long as your speech wasn't physically threatening immedia
      • by Ambvai (1106941)

        I actually find the second one to be more threatening. The first one is just the rant of an angry person while the second shows much more deliberate thought and, to me, has the distinct undertone of a threat.

        • by he-sk (103163)

          You can read a threat into it, but it's not explicitly formulated.

          Another way to read it is concern, i.e. he's scared someone might get shot if things continue as they are.

          It all depends on context and (the reader's) interpretation.

    • "Freedom of Speech typically does not permit incitement to violence."

      You're half correct. The limitation that you refer to is speech that is likely to result in "Imminent lawless action". So, saying "SHOOT THAT GUY RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU RIGHT NOW" is probably illegal. However, advocating for an armed rebellion is not "imminent" and would likely be protected. Of course, this limitation only exists on speech in the United States and really has no relevance outside of that context.

      "Furthermore, inciting ha
    • by Doc Ruby (173196)

      Defaming the generals is within the limits of free speech. Even slander during a revolution seems to stand on what should be a broad boundary line. If you believe everything you hear said about public persons like incumbent generals during a revolution, you're the one doing wrong, not the sloppy speaker.

      Calling for violence, especially in a context where you can expect people to answer the call and commit violence, is outside the rightful bounds of free speech. However, during most revolutions people kill a

      • by DM9290 (797337)

        The day that a revolution tries, convicts and punishes the violent people who caused the victory is the day that humanity has finally taken a step out of the animal kingdom that we like to celebrate as if we did it millennia ago.

        It seems to me that violence is the only way to carry out revolution. If you could use reason, or rational discourse then you would not be living under a tyranny and no revolution would be justified in the first place.

        Why would you punish people for defending themselves from a tyrant? Would you punish a woman who used violence rather than rhetoric to defend herself from a rape?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Freedom of Speech typically does not permit incitement to violence.

      It's not illegal to incite war.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      If you don't protect speech that could endanger someone's liberty, you won't be protecting speech that could win someone's liberty. Sometimes inciting a riot is exactly what the people need to do.

    • Freedom of Speech typically does not permit incitement to violence.

      Yes, we should all know our place, and just quietly take it in the ass.

      Verbal 'action', as apposed to the physical, is quite ethereal and produces widely variable reactions. Don't attack the messenger.. kill all those who respond.

      Anyway, this just shows that this 'Arab Spring' is a load of crap. They just replaced one dictator with another.

  • Funny, he didn't look like he was threatening a facebook post at all!

    Yo Grark

  • Is anyone really surprised that promoting violent actions on the internet gets the authorities involved? How many incidents has the Secret Service in the United States been involved in since Obama took office? I remember one extremely similar to this in which someone from New Mexico I believe posted on their private Facebook page about hurting Obama, and someone reported them, so the SS "had" to investigate, and it turns out it is like a middle-school kid.

    Long story short, if you go posting about how
    • it is still illegal and immoral.

      Ah, it is truly a blessing to be king,

    • Re:Fascists, or? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Nick Ives (317) on Monday August 15, 2011 @02:40AM (#37091692)

      Calling for the assassination of unelected generals who are engaged in an opposition purge as part of a revolutionary strategy isn't evil or immoral.

      Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!

      • by metacell (523607)

        And as far as we know, she didn't call for the assassination of anyone; she claims she was only warning against the danger of civil unrest.

      • Calling for the assassination of unelected generals who are engaged in an opposition purge as part of a counter-revolutionary strategy isn't evil or immoral.

        There, FTFY.

  • by rebelwarlock (1319465) on Monday August 15, 2011 @02:16AM (#37091622)
    Since no one is reading the article before throwing in their opinion (and thus being wrong, because they just assumed that being accused is the same as being guilty), here's the translation of the post:

    If the judiciary doesn’t give us our rights, nobody should be surprised if militant groups appear and conduct a series of assassinations because there is no law and there is no judiciary

    That's mentioning the possibility of violence. It is neither calling for it nor encouraging it. What people seem to be doing is taking a prediction as a threat. That would be like me saying, "No one should be surprised if the price of gas goes up" and everyone responding with, "REBELWARLOCK IS THREATENING TO RAISE GAS PRICES".

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Here's my translation:

      If judges don't uphold our rights we should expect our liberators to carry out methodical assassination of the judges listed below. Because if they don't uphold the law these judges should not exist.

    • by Derekloffin (741455) on Monday August 15, 2011 @02:36AM (#37091672)
      You're right, it was a veiled threat... Sadly I can see that actual verbiage being seen as a threat. Predicting violence is the same kind of thing you hear out of your stereotypical mobster muscling a store owner for protection money. In a place like Egypt, making statements like that on the net is just asking for trouble.
      • In a place like Egypt, making statements like that on the net is just asking for trouble.

        But that was the point of the revolution-- to transform Egypt into the kind of society where a certain amount of freedom was not only tolerated but encouraged.

      • by metacell (523607)

        You don't know it's a veiled threat, and the burden of proof is, as always, on the accuser.

        • You don't know it's a veiled threat, and the burden of proof is, as always, on the accuser.
          Only in English common law, which Egypt might not subscribe to, so quit your cultural imperialism you insensitive clod!
      • by gl4ss (559668)

        you could argue that doing anything in egypt is asking for trouble, going to church is asking for trouble, doing trade is asking for trouble.

        but even TALKING about that it's asking for trouble is asking for trouble in authoritarian regimes(like talking about what powers the kgb had in soviet union got you into trouble with the kgb, like mentioning before a revolt the reasons and events that will take place during the revolt is usually treason in places which are long due for revolt). basically if you can't

    • by Nick Ives (317)

      I think it's fairly obvious that the author was trying to incite further revolution whilst still maintaining a level of reasonable doubt as to whether he was directly calling for it.

      Egypt is still in a revolutionary situation; since the removal of Mubarak it's been business as usual. The military administration are doing their best to imprison and otherwise remove dissenters before the change in government in November.

      • by metacell (523607)

        Obvious? You don't even know what context it was said in, unless you know Arabic and have checked up the original post.

        If I say "If Western society continues to respond to terrorism with military means, we shouldn't be surprised if there are even more bombings", is that also an incitement to violence? Should I be arrested for saying it?

      • I think it's also fairly obvious that 'he' is a 'she'.
    • by adenied (120700)

      What's the world come to? If you make a prediction you get arrested. If you don't make a prediction you get arrested (Italian seismologists).

      I'll probably get arrested for making this observation.

    • It is walking on thin ice though. Recall in 2010 when one Zach Chesser, a muslim extremist, posted to web forums and blogs that South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker should fear becoming the next Theo Van Gogh for their depictions of mohammed. He went so far as to post the addresses of their offices where they worked as well as their home addresses. Never actually made any direct threats, not a single one. But the implication of what he was doing was quite obvious and he was sent to jail for 25 yea

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Had it not been found, nobody would know how to read those pictograms.
  • So if the American Colonies had been subject to the same restrictions to free speech that we have now, would the Revolution have even taken place? Did the entire process in fact take place without the lives of a single British citizen or politician being publicly threatened? Is it possible these current restrictions exist precisely to protect the ruling class and prevent or forestall the organization of some future revolution? If a ruling class becomes so criminally tyrannical that the only practical mea

    • by Calos (2281322)

      Your questions are irrelevant when directed at the ruling class. That's the case here. Of course they're going to protect their own asses.

      To your point, though, it's a revolution - the point is to do things the rulers don't like. Whatever free speech laws you perceive to be different now don't matter, because the whole point of the revolution is to shrug of those laws and systems. It's not like a colonist could make threats against the crown within range of loyalists or redcoats and not be punished. But

    • by Jonner (189691)

      So if the American Colonies had been subject to the same restrictions to free speech that we have now, would the Revolution have even taken place? Did the entire process in fact take place without the lives of a single British citizen or politician being publicly threatened? Is it possible these current restrictions exist precisely to protect the ruling class and prevent or forestall the organization of some future revolution? If a ruling class becomes so criminally tyrannical that the only practical means to change the system they control is by killing the people who control it, don't restrictions on free speech that criminalize discussions of those actions also restrict the ability to carry them out?

      Only a completely inept government would allow open attempts to overthrow it violently. That is independent of whether it is a generally repressive one or not, since it can't enforce anyone's power or rights if any group could overthrow it on a whim. Of course, those who want it to be overthrown will prefer that it not try to prevent that, but those in favor of it will prefer the opposite. A government which cannot protect itself from violent overthrow is not of any value to anyone. Of course, an anarchist

      • by macraig (621737)

        I suspect that Jefferson and some of the other founders may have actually had a conversation about how to leave the door open enough in the future for others to be able to do what they were doing. I wonder what Jefferson would think of our tenure as custodians of what they started. Would Jefferson be an NRA member? Would he think our free speech was free enough? Would he applaud the Citizens United ruling?

  • Major General Adelal-Morsy said there would be "no tolerance to insults directed at the armed forces."

    This is obviously inciting violence against people who protest the armed forces, he should be charged as well.

    • Is he the very model of a modern major general?
      There's something about the word "Supreme" (as in Supreme Council of Armed Forces") that invites a bit of ridicule.

  • This actually seems like legitimate response from the egyptian government. It is one thing to say your government sucks...but it is another thing to say "with how much our government sucks, they should be killed by militant groups". While this probably wouldn't cause prosecution in the US unless a specific name is mentioned. 15 days and $3,360 for death threats?

    Looks like egypt is going in the right direction. In unreformed countries like Syria, Saudi Arabia, China, and Iran even criticizing would have a mu

    • by H0p313ss (811249)

      Except that what she said was "with how much our government sucks, don't be surprised or upset if they're killed by militant groups". That only sounds threatening when you say it with a gun in your hand.

      • Well it sounded more like "they should be killed by militant groups". Either way at least it wasn't "I hate our military leaders". And he didn't get an obscene sentence.

    • The thing about the statement (as reflected in the translations posted) is that if the government does not arrest her, the statement is not a threat, but if the government does arrest her (which it did), it is a threat.
      If the government had not arrested her, they could credibly claim that they are in the process of implementing a system to ensure that the judiciary gives people their rights. By arresting her, they are tacitly admitting that they have no intention of giving people their rights.
      Of course,

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