Egypt arrests British student over military helicopter video

Muhammed Fathi Abulkasem, a 19-year-old student from Manchester, was arrested in Alexandria, his family says.

    Muhammed Fathi Abulkasem was held for 'collecting information against the military', his family says [Handout via family]
    Muhammed Fathi Abulkasem was held for 'collecting information against the military', his family says [Handout via family]

    Egyptian authorities have arrested a 19-year-old British tourist over a mobile phone video that showed a military helicopter in the background, according to his family.

    Muhammed Fathi Abulkasem's arrest took place shortly after he arrived in Egypt's coastal city of Alexandria on November 21, his cousin Shareen Nawaz told the Associated Press news agency on Friday.

    Abulkasem, an A-level student from Manchester in the UK, was travelling to Alexandria from neighbouring Libya, where he had recently moved with his family in order to spend time with his ill grandmother, according to Middle East Eye.

    The Libyan British national had previously lived in Egypt for four years and was returning to visit friends before he started university next year, the website reported.

    Egypt's Foreign Ministry could not be reached for comment.

    The UK's Foreign Office confirmed the arrest of a Briton in Alexandria, but did not elaborate.

    Nawaz, his cousin, told the AP that Abulkasem's family did not hear from him until 12 hours after his arrest. 

    "He basically told us he is held on suspicion of collecting information against the military," she said. 

    He filmed the video while his flight was landing, capturing a military helicopter flying by, she added.

    Speaking from Manchester, Nawaz told the AP that authorities checked her cousin's phone at the airport after being cautioned by his hotel's staff that his booking appeared "suspicious," without elaborating.

    According to Nawaz, Abulkasem faced a court three times over the past week, and a lawyer was assigned to his case but later quit.

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    Taking unauthorised photographs or footage of or near military facilities, equipment or personnel is strictly prohibited in Egypt.

    "We all have one of those landing videos on our phones," Nawaz said. "They shouldn't have military helicopters in public spaces if this is what will happen."

    His mother, Imaan Rafiq, confirmed his arrest in a Facebook post.

    "Any claim they have on him is absolutely futile. He hadn't left the grounds of the airport," Rafiq told the Middle East Eye on Thursday.

    "They have absolutely nothing on him."

    The family has started a petition calling on the British government to secure his release.

    Last week, British academic Matthew Hedges, who was jailed for life in the United Arab Emirates on charges for espionage, was pardoned by the Emirati president and allowed to travel to the UK. 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies