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Editor-in-chief, three journalists from independent newspaper charged, released on bail

This Wednesday, Mada Masr’s editor-in-chief Lina Atallah and three of the independent newspaper's journalists – Rana Mamdouh, Bessan Kassab, and Sara Seif Eddine – were summoned by the Cairo Appeals Prosecution for questioning. The journalists were later charged with spreading "false news," slandering the staunchly pro-Sisi β€œNation's Future Party,” and using social media to "harass" party members. Attalah also faced a fourth charge of "operating a website without a license." After hours of interrogation, they were released on bail – 20,000 LE for Atallah and 5,000 LE each for Mamdouh, Kassab, and Seif Eddine.  

Why is Mada Masr facing state harassment? 

The journalists were summoned for questioning and charged after MPs from the Nation's Future Party filed dozens of legal complaints against Mada Masr over a report it published about a shakeup within the top ranks of the party.  

This is not the first time journalists at Mada Masr – one of Egypt’s last remaining independent news outlets – have faced state harassment. In May 2020, Attalah was arrested while conducting an interview outside Tora Prison with Laila Soueif, the mother of detained British-Egyptian activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah; Attalah was released later that day. In November 2019, their offices were raided by police, and Attalah and two other journalists – Rana Mamdouh and Mohamed Hamama – were detained; all three were freed shortly thereafter amid international calls for their release. 

Egypt remains one of the top jailers of journalists in the world, and independent reporters frequently face harassment and intimidation.  

 
 

Detained politician writes last will from jail cell   

This week, former presidential candidate and Strong Egypt Party head Abdelmoneim Aboul Fotouh wrote his last will in a letter to his family, raising concerns about his deteriorating health. Aboul Fotouh, who is 71 years old and is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence, has suffered four heart attacks since July. During a recent session to renew his pretrial detention, he told the court that he is being subjected to a "slow death" inside Tora Mazraa Prison. 

Why is Aboul Fotouh in prison? 

Aboul Fotouh was arrested in February 2018, a week after fellow Strong Egypt Party member Mohamed al-Qassas was detained; al-Qassas was sentenced alongside Aboul Fotouh to 10 years in prison in May of this year. 

Aboul Fotouh was arrested in retaliation against for endorsing a boycott of that year’s presidential elections and speaking out about Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's crackdown on dissent. Before his arrest, he spoke openly about the country’s shrinking political space during interviews on the BBC and Al-Jazeera. Following the Al-Jazeera interview, Egyptian lawyer Samir Sabry filed a complaint with Egypt's public prosecutor accusing Aboul Fotouh of "insulting" Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. 

 

 

#NotaNumber: Hisham Abdelaziz

Hisham Abdelaziz (45 years old) is a husband, father of three children, and Al-Jazeera journalist who has been unjustly detained in Egypt for over three years, far exceeding the legal maximum for pretrial detention. This week, an Egyptian court renewed his pretrial detention for the 41st time. Hisham has been subjected to medical neglect and risks losing his hearing and eyesight. According to rights lawyer Mahienour al-Masry, he has already lost hearing in his left ear and is only able to see out of one eye. Abdelaziz has worked for Al-Jazeera since 2013 and was arrested on June 20, 2019, upon his arrival in Egypt, where he vacationed annually. He was interrogated at Cairo International Airport for five hours upon his arrival to the country, and his passport – along with those of his wife and children – were seized. Although they were allowed to leave the airport, Abdelaziz was summoned to retrieve his passport shortly thereafter and arrested, only to be ordered detained pending Case No. 1365 of 2018. On December 5, 2019, he was ordered released; instead of being physically released, Abdelaziz was forcibly disappeared for four weeks before being β€œrotated” into a new case, No. 1956 of 2019.  

 

WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW…  

In the News 

  • The trial of journalists Ahmed Sabie and Badr Mohamed Badr and activist Ahmed Abdelsattar al-Amasha (Case No. 1360 of 2021) is set to begin on September 24. Sabie has been denied all family visits or contact with his family for the last two and half years. 

  • A number of political prisoners were released on Friday, including Ahmed (Rigo) Maher, Balal Abdel Rizk, Saeed Ezzeddine, and researcher Ahmed Sabie. According to lawyer and Presidential Pardon Committee member Tarek al-Awady, 33 people were scheduled to be released

  • Salma El Tarzi's next court session is scheduled for this Sunday, September 11. Like Rasha Azzab, Salma faces defamation charges for standing in solidarity with women who accused film director Islam al-Azzazi of rape and harassment. Azzab was sentenced to a fine of 10,000 LE last month. 

  • Detained lawyer Haitham Mohammadein is reportedly experiencing health problems, including numbness, particularly in his left shoulder, tingling in his extremities, blurred vision, and trouble breathing. He has not reported previous health issues, though he did contract COVID-19 behind bars. 

  • After expressing dissatisfaction with the National Dialogue’s Board of Trustees’ selection of committee Rapporteurs, the Civil Democratic Movement released a statement raising five points it believes are necessary for the continuation of the National Dialogue. They include releasing political prisoners and ceasing the government crackdown on dissent. The Movement is now facing attacks by pro-regime media personality Ahmed Moussa and others. 

  • NGO We Record reported today that 27-year-old Karim Samir Ammar (above) has been forcibly disappeared since August 23, when he arrived at Cairo International Airport on a flight from the UAE and was subsequently detained. 

  • Alaa Abd El-Fattah is once again being denied writing paper, medical devices for measuring his blood pressure and blood sugar, magazines, and clothes. People around the world continue to advocate for the activist's release; see this letter in Portuguese with over 200 signatures from NGOs and activists. 

From Civil Society 

  • The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights released the English version of its third annual report on the use of the death penalty in Egypt. 

  • Over 130 journalists, human rights defenders, and lawyers have signed onto a message of solidarity with Mada Masr

 

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