Egypt’s Cairo Criminal Court has rejected an appeal by Al Jazeera Arabic’s Abdullah Elshamy against a decision to extend his detention, as his family denied claims he had quit a hunger strike he started more than 110 days ago.
Elshamy, who has not been charged with any crime despite being incarcerated for 266 days, was transferred to solitary confinement in Tora prison’s maximum security Scorpion unit on Monday.
His hunger strike, staged to protest his captivity, has left him frail, while his family and lawyers said recent blood tests showed failing kidneys and “critical” health conditions.
The 26-year-old journalist was arrested as he reported on the dispersal of a vigil held by thousands supporting the then-president Mohamed Morsi, who was overthrown by the country’s army.
Two days after his arrest, prosecutors accused Elshamy of belonging to a banned group, attacking government officials and other acts of violence and sabotage. However, authorities have never charged him with a crime.
Leaked footage showing him in dire health has emerged, with him confirming that he has not received any health-care and that he holds the Egyptian authorities accountable for any harm inflicted on him.
Talking to reporters in court, Elshamy, who has lost at least 35kg, said he would continue his hunger strike despite pressures by the authorities to force-feed him tuna.
Mosa’ab, Elshamy’s Cairo-based brother, told Al Jazeera on Thursday that the authorities were “using his solitary confinement to pressure him”. He said he saw Elshamy on Wednesday.
In a statement on Thursday, Amnesty International urged authorities to release the journalist, describing him as a “prisoner of conscience, detained solely for his journalistic work”.
‘Affront to justice’
Earlier on Thursday, the eighth session in the trial of three Al Jazeera English journalists was adjourned to May 22.
Peter Greste, Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy, who are accused of conspiring with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, have now been imprisoned for 138 days.
Al Jazeera rejects the charges against them.
Prosecution lawyers have told their defence team that they must pay a fee of $170,000 to facilitate viewing of the video evidence against the journalists, a demand the network describes as an affront to justice.
The evidence presented against them has included reports from other correspondents and other news channels.
Two lawyers who no longer represent the Al Jazeera journalists earlier told the court that the network was using the trial for promotional purposes.
They also said that the defendants’ case was being jeopardised by Al Jazeera’s decision to bring a legal case against Egypt for damage to its business.
The network has rejected those allegations in a statement.
“There have been many farcical scenes during the previous seven court hearings, and today was another example. It is an affront to justice for the prosecution to attempt charging $170,000 for the defence to see the video evidence against them,” the statement said.
“The support from across the world has been loud and it is important to keep that going. We are continuing to do everything possible to get our journalists out of jail and are working with a first class legal team to end this injustice.”
Nabil Fahmy, the Egyptian foreign minister, defended his country’s judicial system.
“Our relations with Qatar are not where they should be as part of the Arab world. So you can assume that the case is… there’s baggage in the case that relates to the Jazeera situation in particular. But that’s not going to cloud the eyes of the judges in making their verdict,” Fahmy said.