Egypt frees Al Jazeera journalist detained since 2016

Updated May 24, 2019

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An Egyptian cou­rt on Thursday ordered the release of an Al Jazeera journalist who had been detained since 2016 on allegations of spreading false news and defaming Egypt’s reputation. — AP/File
An Egyptian cou­rt on Thursday ordered the release of an Al Jazeera journalist who had been detained since 2016 on allegations of spreading false news and defaming Egypt’s reputation. — AP/File

CAIRO: An Egyptian cou­rt on Thursday ordered the release of an Al Jazeera journalist who had been detained since 2016 on allegations of spreading false news and defaming Egypt’s reputation.

Mahmoud Hussein, an Egyptian journalist working for the Qatar-based satellite network, was detained at the Cairo airport in December 2016 when he arrived on a family vacation from Doha. No official charges were ever raised against him and Hussein didn’t stand trial.

“This case shows the misuse of pre-trial detention as a form of punishment in Egypt,” said Gamal Eid, executive director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information.

He said there are at least 20,000 people currently in detention without charges in Egypt for political reasons. Hundreds of them have already exceeded the legal two-year pre-trial term, he said.

Al Jazeera reported the release of Hussein on its website on Thursday, saying Hussein “was arrested without formal charges and kept in prison for 881 days”.

In 2013, Egypt officials received a landslide of international condemnation when security forces arrested three journalists, including Australian Peter Greste, Egyptian-Canadian Moha­med Fahmy, and Baher Mohamed who worked for Al-Jazeera English at the time.

A court found them guilty and sentenced them to seven to 10 years in prison. Later, President Abdel Fatt­ah el-Sissi ordered Gre­ste deported after having spent 400 days behind bars and pardoned his co-defendants.

Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2019