Middle East

Egypt TV chief Tawfiq Ukasha denies Mursi murder charge

Tawfiq Ukasha gesturing as he arrives in court
Image caption Tawfiq Ukasha is opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood

An Egyptian TV station owner and presenter has denied calling for the murder of President Mohammed Mursi.

"I merely criticised President Mursi," Tawfiq Ukasha told judges at the start of his trial in the capital, Cairo.

Mr Ukasha's al-Faraeen channel was ordered off the air last month after a programme critical of Mr Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood that backs him.

The editor of an opposition newspaper, Islam Afifi, has also been charged with insulting Mr Mursi.

Mr Afifi, who edits the small, independent newspaper al-Dustour, was held in custody last month until President Mursi passed a law banning the pre-trial detention of journalists.

It was the first law issued by Mr Mursi since assuming legislative powers from the military council - a move designed to counter criticism that the president and his Muslim Brotherhood backers are trying to suppress the opposition, correspondents say.

Mr Ukasha is seen as a fierce critic of the Brotherhood and supporter of the military.

His trial was adjourned until 3 October. His supporters gathered outside the Cairo court building chanting, "We want al-Faraeen".

Image caption Islam Afifi's newspaper warned of a Brotherhood 'emirate' taking over Egypt

Mr Afifi is awaiting trial for publishing "false information" deemed insulting to Mr Mursi and which could also stoke sectarian tension, prosecutors said in August.

The 11 August edition of al-Dustour was seized after a court order.

An editorial in the confiscated copies had warned of a Brotherhood "emirate" taking over Egypt and called on Egyptians to join the military's fight against Islamism.

The US has described the prosecutions of Mr Ukasha and Mr Afifi as running counter to the spirit of last year's revolution, which ended the rule of President Hosni Mubarak.

Commentators in Egypt say that Mr Mursi and the Brotherhood are now resorting to tactics employed to great effect by Mubarak and his party to gain influence over media policy.

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