Al Jazeera denounced Egyptian authorities’ decision to renew the detention of its journalist Rabie el-Sheikh by 45 days after holding him without trial or charge for a year, the Qatar-based media network said.
El-Sheikh was initially detained on August 1, 2021 at the Cairo International Airport as he arrived to join his wife and children for a family holiday.
The network said in a statement on Monday that “continuous extension of his detention throughout the year in solitary confinement at the notorious Tora Prison has severely impacted and resulted in deterioration of his physical and mental health”.
“Al Jazeera views the detention of the journalist as an attack on press freedom and holds Egyptian authorities accountable for the safety and security of el-Sheikh and all other journalists detained and imprisoned for merely carrying out their duties as journalists.”
‘Spreading false information’
Al Jazeera said it demanded the release of el-Sheikh and his three colleagues – Hisham Abdel Aziz, Bahauddin Ibrahim, and Ahmed al-Najdi – who are also incarcerated without charge.
“The network calls on all international press freedom and human rights organisations to condemn their arbitrary arrest and demand their immediate release,” the statement said.
The four journalists have been detained since August 2021, August 2020, February 2020, and June 2019, respectively, on charges of “membership of a banned group” and “spreading false information”.
In a statement in June, rights group Reporters Without Borders said “the real crime” of the four journalists was working for Al Jazeera Media Network.
A military coup led by now-President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi deposed Egypt’s first democratically elected president, the late Mohamed Morsi, a candidate backed by the Muslim Brotherhood group, in 2013.
El-Sisi, who outlawed the Brotherhood in late 2013 and has overseen a wide-ranging crackdown, jailed thousands of its supporters.
Egypt has repeatedly arrested and detained Al Jazeera staff since the coup. Mahmoud Hussein, a producer with Al Jazeera Arabic, spent more than four years in detention without formal charge or trial before being released in February 2021.
Egypt’s interior ministry accused Hussein of “disseminating false news and receiving monetary funds from foreign authorities in order to defame the state’s reputation”. Hussein and Al Jazeera consistently denied the allegations.
Egyptian authorities extended Hussein’s detention more than a dozen times, far surpassing the country’s maximum period for pre-trial detention in violation of both Egyptian and international law.