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Egypt court orders release of Al Jazeera journalist

May 23, 2019

An Egyptian court ordered the release Thursday of a journalist working for Qatar’s Al Jazeera network after nearly two and a half years of detention, a judicial source and a lawyer said.

Mahmoud Hussein, an Egyptian national, was detained in Cairo in 2016 when he returned for a family holiday, on accusations of incitement against state institutions and spreading false news.

Al Jazeera’s website said Hussein has been held in custody “without formal charges, a trial or a conviction.”

It remains unclear when he will be released but his lawyer Taher Abul Nasr said “it is expected to take place within days.”

Al Jazeera has been caught up in the political rift between Cairo and Doha following the 2013 military ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, who was backed by Qatar.

The Doha-based network is seen by Egypt’s government as a mouthpiece for Morsi’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group. Access to its website has been blocked in Egypt since 2017.

Shortly after Morsi’s ouster, authorities arrested three Al-Jazeera journalists, including an Egyptian-Canadian and an Australian, provoking wide international condemnation.

The three journalists, who faced accusations similar to those levelled against Hussein, were freed in 2015.

Australian journalist Peter Greste was deported and the two others were released after receiving pardons from President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

In June 2017, Egypt — along with other Arab countries including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — severed ties with Qatar over allegations that it supports “terrorist” groups, including the Brotherhood.

Rights groups regularly accuse Sisi’s regime of crushing all forms of dissent and repressing political opponents.

Under his rule, authorities have jailed thousands of Morsi’s Islamist supporters as well as liberal and secular activists, including popular bloggers, actors, singers and journalists.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.