Egyptian authorities Saturday released a journalist working for Qatar’s Al Jazeera television network who had been held in pre-trial detention for more than four years.
Mahmoud Hussein, a video editor, was arrested in 2016 over accusations of attempting to overthrow the country’s government and being a member of the banned political party, Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt’s Ministry of Interior accused him of “disseminating false news and receiving monetary funds from foreign authorities to defame the state’s reputation,” but no charges were ever formally brought against him. Hussein and Al Jazeera consistently denied the allegations.
The Muslim Brotherhood was a Qatar-backed movement that was in power for a year in 2013 under President Mohamed Morsi. After Morsi was deposed by the army after public protests, succeeding governments cracked down harshly on all Brotherhood supporters and members. Thousands of them are now in jail, and Egypt has designated the group as a terrorist organization. Egypt has also long accused Al Jazeera of being a mouthpiece of the Brotherhood, as the state media of Qatar.
In January 2018 the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that the conditions of Hussein’s imprisonment amounted to “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.” His detention was extended more than a dozen times and violated the maximum pre-trial detention period under both Egyptian and international law. Hussein was finally released on Saturday after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt agreed in January to restore diplomatic, trade and travel ties with Qatar, which had been severed in 2017.
Al Jazeera welcomed the release, stating, “This is a moment of truth and an inspiring milestone towards press freedom. No journalist should ever be subjected to what Mahmoud has suffered for the past four years for merely carrying out his profession.”