Egypt renews detention of Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Hussein

Detention of Al Jazeera journalist renewed for fifth time, as recent video footage shows him visibly exhausted.

Egyptian authorities have renewed the detention of Al Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein for the fifth time, announcing on Saturday that he will be held for another 45 days. 

Hussein, an Egyptian who lives in Qatar, was stopped, questioned and arrested by the Egyptian authorities on December 20 after travelling to Cairo for a holiday.

Recent video footage of Hussein outside an Egyptian court shows that he has lost weight and looks exhausted due to harsh conditions in detention. 

Hussein’s daughter Zahra said earlier this month that the harsh detention conditions have left her father suffering from shortness of breath, and severe psychological and physical stress. 

Human rights and media organisations have denounced his detention.

Al Jazeera has demanded that Egypt unconditionally release Hussein and condemned the continued renewal of his detention, which has been extended five times so far, with the last renewal order issued on February 5.

READ MORE: Groups call for release of Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Hussein

On January 4 and 19, when his detention was due to expire, authorities extended his arrest for a period of 15 days “pending a further investigation”. On February 2, authorities extended his detention by four days as they referred his case to the Giza Criminal Court.

Five days after his initial arrest, Egypt’s interior ministry accused him of “incitement against state institutions and broadcasting false news with the aim of spreading chaos”.

International law broken

Al Jazeera has rejected all of the allegations against him and condemned those who forced him into false “confessions” made on video.

The network urges Egypt to release him immediately. It also said it holds the Egyptian authorities responsible for his safety and wellbeing.

Al Jazeera also denounced a smear campaign against Hussein, which is being carried through local media outlets – a practice that violates international law.

The United Nations has called on Egypt to comply with its commitment to protect freedom of expression.

In January, Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN secretary-general, said: “We appeal for this case to be resolved in accordance with Egypt’s own international obligations to protect freedom of expression and freedom of opinion.”

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

In May, a Cairo court sentenced a former editor-in-chief of Al Jazeera Arabic, Ibrahim Helal, to death, charging him 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 the aftermath of the military overthrow of then-President Mohamed Morsi in 2013, the year they were taken into custody.

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

The judge who sentenced the journalists said they were brought together “by the devil” to destabilise the country.

Hussein joined Al Jazeera in Egypt in 2011. He moved to the network’s headquarters in Qatar in 2013.

Source: Al Jazeera