Egyptian authorities have extended the detention of Al Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein, who has spent almost 500 days in jail without charge.
The extension on Saturday for another 45 days was to allow for further interrogation.
Hussein, an Egyptian national who was based in Qatar, was stopped, questioned and detained by authorities on December 20, 2016, after travelling to the Egyptian capital of Cairo for a holiday.
Five days after his initial arrest, Egypt’s interior ministry accused him of “disseminating false news and receiving monetary funds from foreign authorities in order to defame the state’s reputation”.
Since then, he has been put in solitary confinement and denied his legal rights. He has yet to be formally charged.
According to Egyptian law, the maximum time a person can be held for interrogation is two years. If Hussein remains imprisoned, he will hit that maximum in December 2018.
Before working at the network’s headquarters in the Qatari capital, Doha, Hussein was based in Al Jazeera’s now-closed bureau in Cairo.
His family says the journalist is in poor physical and psychological condition, and is being denied adequate treatment for ailments.
Al Jazeera has rejected the accusations against Hussein and has called on Egypt to unconditionally release its journalist.
At the time of his arrest, Sherif Mansour of the Committee to Protect Journalist said: “Egyptian authorities are waging a systematic campaign against Al Jazeera, consisting of arbitrary arrest, censorship, and systematic harassment.”
Human rights and press freedom groups have also condemned his ongoing detention, currently in its 487th day.
Targeting of journalists
Hussein’s detention was the latest in a string of arrests by Egyptian authorities targeting the network’s staff in the country.
In May 2016, Ibrahim Helal, the former editor-in-chief of Al Jazeera Arabic, was sentenced to death in absentia for purportedly endangering national security.
Egypt also imprisoned Al Jazeera’s 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 politicians alike.
Mohamed and Fahmy spent 437 days in jail before being released, while Greste spent more than a year in prison.