Al Jazeera Scribe freed after four years in prison

  • 8 months   ago

Egypt has released Al Jazeera Scribe Mahmoud Hussein on 5 February. Mahmoud has spent over four years in prison on accusations of publishing “false news.” The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) sees Hussein’s release as a considerate gesture, putting an end to his 1500 days’ ordeal, and appeals for the release of the remaining journalists imprisoned in Egypt. 

Mahmoud Hussein, an Egyptian national and a Qatari-based journalist was arrested on 23 December 2016, while on vacation with his family. He was detained on charges of “incitement against state institutions and broadcasting false news, with the aim of spreading chaos.” He was being held without formal charges, a trial or conviction.  

His detention created an uproar among journalists across the world and received backlashes from international rights group and media freedom organizations, such as the IFJ and the United Nations. 

 

 

There has been repeated requests for his release, including from human rights watchdog Amnesty International. In May 2019, a Cairo prosecutor even ordered his release from jail under “precautionary measures”. However, the next day, he was again detained after the authorities launched a new investigation against him. 

Since then, Mahmoud has remained in custody and he has spent over 1500 days in prison, without a trial or conviction. 

Hussein’s release from jail comes weeks after Egypt announced its decision to restore ties with Qatar, following the end of a three-year-old rift. 

Following the 2013 military ouster of Egypt’s Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, backed by Qatar, Al Jazeera reportedly got caught up in a political rift between Cairo and Doha. 

Cairo accused Al Jazeera of being an ambassador of Morsi’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group and hence blocked access to its website in Egypt in 2017. 

Shortly after Morsi’s ouster, the Egyptian authorities detained three Al Jazeera journalists, including an Eyptian-Canadian and an Australian, infuriating journalists world-wide. These three journalists faced accusations similar to those levelled against Hussein. However, they were freed in 2015. The Australian Journalist was deported and the others were released after receiving pardons from President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. 

IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger in a statement said: “We welcome Mahmoud’s release and his return to his home to be reunited with his family after such a long separation due to his arbitrary detention.”.

Dr Mostafa Souaq, acting director-general of Al Jazeera Media Network in a statement welcomed the news of Mahmoud’s freedom and stated that no journalist should ever be subjected to what Mahmoud suffered for the past four years for merely carrying out his profession. 

He added, “Today, we are pleased he is finally reunited with his family, after being robbed four years from his life and deprived of his fundamental rights.” He wished Mahmoud a speedy recovery, hoping he would be able to put behind his past ordeal and start a new chapter in his distinguished career. 


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