A number of scholars and researchers from around the world have issued a statement calling on Egyptian authorities to release journalist and researcher Ismail Alexandrani.
Security forces detained Alexandrani in Hurghada airport on November 29 upon his return from Berlin. State Security Prosecution accused Alexandrani of belonging to a terrorist organization and propagating its ideas and disseminating false news. The prosecution ordered the detention of Alexandrani for 15 days pending investigation and renewed his detention for a further 15 days on December 10.
Alexandrani’s wife Khadiga Gaafar tweeted that her husband’s next interrogation session would take place between December 23 and 28.
The statement is signed by 74 professors and researchers at universities in France, Britain, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Spain, the US, Canada, India and Brazil. It describes Alexandrani as “one of Egypt’s brightest young researchers, who has spent the last few years doing ground-breaking work on the marginalized areas of Egypt – a blind spot in academic studies of the country – as well as on political Islam.”
“He has constantly demonstrated a genuine intellectual independence,” the statement reads. “He is a well respected member of the academic community, and someone we personally enjoyed working with.”
Alexandrani’s arrest is described as a “repression of free speech.”
The statement can be read in full here.
According to his wife at the time of his arrest, Alexandrani was on the airport’s watch-list and was taken to the National Security headquarters in Hurghada following his arrest.
Ahmed Sakr, a journalist and friend, wrote in a Facebook post that Alexandrani took the risk of returning to Egypt although he knew he may face arrest on arrival, due to family circumstances.
Police and military sources had initially reassured him that Alexandrani was being held for a simple chat with National Security about his travels and would be released within hours, according to Sakr’s account.
Several organizations have demanded the journalist and researcher’s release. Fourteen Egyptian rights organizations issued a joint statement on September 1. Human Rights Watch, and the Committee to Protect Journalists have also called for his release.
Alexandrani received the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship in the United States from February to August and then moved to Turkey where he has been writing for different outlets. While returning from Turkey in his last trip, Alexandrani stopped in Berlin in an attempt to avoid security problems. Alexandrani’s wife says he has gave several lectures in Berlin throughout October.
Alexandrani’s journalistic work is often critical of Egypt’s policies. Recent articles in the Beirut-based newspapers As-Safir Arabic and Al-Modon called the new Suez Canal a delusion, critically addressed the state’s war on Sinai-based militants and used local sources to report details on the Armed Forces’ battle with militants in the Western Desert.