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Cairo court announces hearing for closure of BBC bureau

The BBC's Cairo bureau is one of its key offices in the Middle East [Getty]

Date of publication: 13 March, 2018

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An Egyptian lawyer is threatening the BBC's Cairo office with closure after it published a February report detailing rampant human rights abuses in the country.
A Cairo court has set date in April for the first hearing in a lawsuit filed against the BBC demanding the closure of its Cairo office and the withdrawal of its licence to operate in Egypt, Ahram Online said on Tuesday.

The Cairo Court for Urgent Matters announced that the hearing - filed by lawyer Mohamed Hamed Salem - would take place on April 10. 

The court case follows a report published by the BBC that details the state's use of torture, forced disappearances and sexual violence against Egypt's political opposition.

The report, named "The shadow over Egypt" provoked outrage from Egyptian authorities, who lambasted the exposé - which featured numerous interviews with persecuted activists - as "lies".

In his lawsuit, Halem accuses the BBC of broadcasting "false news with the aim of undermining the stability of Egypt and defaming Egypt's reputation in the field of human rights", Ahram Online reported.

The report, penned by the BBC's Orla Guerin - includes the case of a Zubeida Ibrahim Younis, a 25-year-old Egyptian woman whom it says was forcibly disappeared by Egyptian authorities, only to later appear on Egyptian TV refuting the BBC's claims.

Zubeida's mother, who was also cited in the report accusing the police of torturing her daughter, was arrested and her lawyer disappeared in the wake of its publication.

In response to the report's publication, Egypt's state information service [SIS] released a statement on March 7, saying: "The report was flagrantly fraught with lies and allegations as regards many issues, namely political and social status in Egypt, conditions in prisons, human rights".

The SIS also reportedly summoned the chief of the BBC Cairo bureau to complain about the report. The SIS have also called on Egyptian officials to boycott the broadcasting giant and abstain from any interviews with its journalists or producers until is officially apologises.

The BBC told The New Arab in an emailed statement that the broadcaster stood by its reporting.

"We are confident it is a thorough and accurate investigation which adheres to the BBC's editorial values," it said.

"The BBC gave the State Information Service and a number of other Egyptian government departments ample opportunity to respond to the allegations but they chose not to," it added.

Egypt's judiciary announced on Tuesday it had opened up a fake new "hotline" in the run-up to the presidential elections at the end of the month, which would gather complaints of news posted online or in print that could be deemed "damaging to national security and the country's interests". 

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