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Journalist detained in Egypt for 1,300 days

CAIRO, EGYPT — Mahmoud Hussein has been detained in Egypt for 1,300 days and counting. The Al Jazeera journalist will be facing an additional forty-five days of detention, announced Egyptian authorities last week. Hussein was arrested on the grounds of "incitement against state institutions and broadcasting false news with the aim of spreading chaos"; both the Al Jazeera Media Network and Mahmoud Hussein deny these claims.

Hussein, an Egyptian national, was arrested on December 20, 2016, while on a personal trip to visit his family in Egypt.

Mahmoud Hussein's incarceration is in breach of the country’s penal code, which states the maximum pretrial detention period for individuals being investigated for a felony is 620 days.

The network has called for the journalist’s release time and time again. On the 1,000th day of Hussein's illegal detention, Al Jazeera launched a solidarity campaign with a website, through which the public can sign a petition for his release.

Back in 2019, a state prosecutor ordered for his release; an Egyptian court rejected the order. Later, authorities opened a new investigation against Hussein on unspecified charges and arrested him once again.

While in solitary confinement, Hussein endured a broken arm and was refused proper medical care. Additionally, he was forbidden from visiting his ailing father or even attending his funeral when he passed away.

The United Nations has called on Egypt to end Hussein's "arbitrary detention", stating that the "appropriate remedy would be to release Mr Hussein immediately".

Al Jazeera has been commenting on the dilapidated state of Egypt's prisons. Their deteriorating health conditions, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, is an imminent threat to the prisoners’ wellbeing— especially those who have been wrongfully detained. Besides, the network has already lost a journalist to these conditions.

Al Jazeera has been vilified in Egypt since the overthrow of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi in 2013. It has been portrayed as Egypt’s national enemy because of its coverage and support for the Muslim Brotherhood— an Islamic organization that was founded in Egypt in 1928. The Brotherhood is currently outlawed in the country. Several Al Jazeera journalists have been charged in absentia for supporting “terrorists”— a reference to the members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Reporters Without Borders ranked Egypt 166th out of 180 in its 2020 Press Freedom Index.

Mahmoud is an unfortunate testament to the appalling lack of freedom of expression. A journalist facing jail time in Egypt without being charged or offered a trial, let alone a fair trial, in breach of both national and international law, is a scenario that is becoming far too common in Egypt today.

Reporter- Ananya Sreekumar

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