An international media group has demanded that Egypt free an Al Jazeera journalist held for more than two years after a court formally released him last week.
The Vienna-based International Press Institute (IIP) sent an open letter to Egypt’s minister of foreign affairs, Sameh Hassan Shoukry, on Monday expressing “deep concern” over the “unexplained delay” in Mahmoud Hussein’s release.
An Egyptian court on Thursday upheld an earlier ruling ordering Hussein’s release from prison after more than 880 days of detention.
As per Egyptian law, Hussein should have been released within 24 hours.
The IIP urged the Egyptian foreign minister to “ensure that your government respects the rule of law by immediately releasing Mahmoud Hussein”.
“Press freedom is an essential element of a democratic society, which Egypt claims to be,” the letter said.
IPI member & @AlJazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein:
– Jailed w/o charge in #Egypt since Dec ’16
– 888 days behind bars
– Detention ruled arbitrary by UN Working Grp
— IPI (@globalfreemedia) May 27, 2019
Hussein, an Egyptian national who works for Al Jazeera Arabic television channel based in Qatar, was arrested on arrival on December 20, 2016, while travelling to Egypt to visit his family.
He was accused of “incitement against state institutions and broadcasting false news with the aim of spreading chaos” – an allegation both Hussein and Al Jazeera Media Network deny.
His detention – which had been renewed many times over the years – was in violation of both Egyptian and international law, with the former setting 24 hours as the maximum period of pre-trial detention.
In February, the United Nations called on Egypt to end Hussein’s “arbitrary detention”, saying the “appropriate remedy would be to release Mr Hussein immediately”.
Al Jazeera has fallen foul of Egyptian authorities over its coverage of the Muslim Brotherhood – a banned group considered a “terrorist” organisation by Egypt – following the overthrow of former president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
Several other Al Jazeera journalists were previously detained for long periods in Egypt, though all have since been released.
Their arrests are part of a wider crackdown on press freedom in the country, which is classed as “Not Free” by Freedom House, a democracy NGO.
In 2018, Egypt, Turkey, and China were responsible for more than half of all journalists jailed around the world for a third year in a row, according to a report by the Committee to Protect journalists.