Al Jazeera condemns arrest of its journalist in Egypt

Network denies all charges against news producer Mahmoud Hussein, who was arrested after arriving in Cairo on holiday.

Al Jazeera Media Network has denied “fabricated charges” against its news producer who was arrested in Egypt on December 20.

The Qatar-based network has demanded Mahmoud Hussein’s immediate release, saying that he was in Egypt on holiday and not for work.

“Al Jazeera deems all accusations against Hussein, including those which might be added later to the current allegations, to be a result of practices which violate international norms and conventions, and which, unfortunately, prevail in Egypt as exposed by human rights organisations,” the network said in a statement.

It also said it was deeply surprised that Egypt’s interior ministry issued an official statement that contained “an alarming number of false facts and allegations”.

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Egypt’s interior ministry said that Hussein was arrested at a house in Giza, on the outskirts of the capital, Cairo. He has been detained for 15 days pending investigation.

The ministry in a statement claimed that Hussein used several residences to “avoid security monitoring in light of Al Jazeera’s unauthorised work in the country and its failure to obtain the needed licences”.

Hussein was accused of “incitement against state institutions and broadcasting false news with the aim of spreading chaos”.

Al Jazeera denied all charges, and said it was concerned over Hussein’s safety.

“[Hussein] is a news producer in the Al Jazeera Arabic newsroom and not a correspondent supervisor as alleged by the statement … Al Jazeera also warns the Egyptian authorities against subjecting Hussein to torture or extracting any information from him by force.”

On vacation

Hussein, who lives in the Qatari capital Doha, used to work in Egypt before Al Jazeera closed its office there in 2013.

He was questioned for more than 15 hours at Cairo’s airport after arriving for a holiday, security sources told The Associated Press news agency.

State security also stormed the homes of Hussein’s two brothers and arrested them.

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Egyptian authorities have over the past few years arrested several Al Jazeera employees, raising concerns over media freedom in the country.

In May, a Cairo court recommended the death penalty against Ibrahim Helal and Alaa Omar Mohamed Sablan, charging them in absentia with endangering national security.

Al Jazeera’s Baher Mohamed, Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste – along with seven colleagues outside the country – were accused of spreading “false news” during their coverage of demonstrations against a military overthrow of then-president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, the year they went into custody.

Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy spent 437 days in jail before being released. Greste spent more than a year in prison.

There has been a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood since the army takeover in 2013 stripped Mohamed Morsi – a prominent member of the group – of power following mass protests against his rule.

Thousands of Brotherhood supporters, including Morsi, are in jail. Egypt has designated the group, which says it is non-violent, as a “terrorist organisation”.

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Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies