Egyptian authorities have renewed the detention of Al Jazeera’s journalist Mahmoud Hussein for another 45 days, adding to the 713 days he has already spent in jail without charges.
The decision came after his hearing on November 19, but his lawyer was only made aware of it on Sunday.
Egypt accused the Qatar-based news producer of broadcasting false news and receiving foreign funds to defame state institutions, but he is yet to be formally charged.
Hussein and Al Jazeera strongly deny the allegations, and the move to continue to hold him has drawn international criticism.
Hussein’s detention has breached Egypt’s own penal code, since he has been held for more than 620 days, the maximum period permitted for an individual being investigated for a felony, without a trial. Authorities should have either released Hussein or referred him to court.
Hussein was arrested on December 20, 2016, by Egyptian authorities upon his arrival in Cairo for an annual vacation to visit his family.
Since then he has been put in solitary confinement and denied his legal rights.
In February, the United Nations called Hussein’s jailing “arbitrary detention”, saying the “appropriate remedy would be to release Mr Hussein immediately.”
Egypt also imprisoned Al Jazeera’s Abdullah Elshamy, Baher Mohamed, Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste on charges of spreading “false news”, in a case that was widely condemned by international media outlets and many politicians.
All have since been released.
Ibrahim Helal, former editor-in-chief of Al Jazeera Arabic, was sentenced to death in absentia for purportedly endangering national security. Several other colleagues have also been charged in absentia, such as journalists Sue Turton and Dominic Kane.
Reporters Without Borders ranked Egypt 161 out of 180 in its 2017 press freedom index, a “blacklist” of countries considered “prisons for journalists”.
“According to our statistics in 2016, we noticed there were at least 20 journalists behind bars because of their work,” says Alexandra El Khazen from Reporters Without Borders.
“They’d find themselves in a group political trial with hundreds of others accused. The accusations against them are political, because of their journalistic work, as if they were activists or terrorists.”
Hussein’s current colleagues describe him as a trustworthy, passionate and experienced journalist.
“He did his job objectively. He always maintained balance and professionalism in his reportage,” Al Jazeera Arabic presenter Mohammad Krichen said.