State Security Prosecution ordered the detention of photographer Reem Qotb for 15 days pending investigations into links to the Qatari-based Al Jazeera network.
Qotb was arrested at Cairo International Airport, according to a report by the privately owned Youm7 newspaper, after she was found to be in possession of “small spy plane.” The newspaper quoted security sources as saying that Qotb works for Al Jazeera and had attended “training programs” in Turkey teaching her to use “small spy planes and photography devices to film events and send them to the channel in Doha.”
The sources added that Qotb’s arrest took place in light of the sixth anniversary of the 2011 revolution, as the network plans to air “dozens of fabricated videos,” as part of Al Jazeera’s “mobilization plans systematically carried out against the Egyptian state.” These sources also accused Qotb of being a member of the banned Muslim Brotherhood.
Qotb’s family, however, vehemently denied these accusations in a statement published on Facebook, stating that Qotb has been missing since December 26 when she arrived in Cairo for a family visit from the US — where Qotb studies at the New York Film Academy — and accusing security forces of “kidnapping” her upon her arrival.
The family added that Qotb has no links to Al Jazeera, and has no political affiliations. “Qotb visited Turkey for touristic purposes as her psychological condition had deteriorated after her mother’s death, and came back to Cairo for a visit during the Eid al-Fitr holiday, before she went back to the US to complete her studies,” the statement added.
Qotb’s family claimed that lawyers were prevented from seeing her and were denied information about her whereabouts, adding that they learned about the charges filed against her from media outlets. Members of Qotb’s family declined to give further comments to Mada Masr concerning the details of her case.
Qotb’s arrest comes few days after the arrest of Al Jazeera producer Mahmoud Hussein, who was also arrested upon his arrival to Cairo, along with two of his brothers. Hussein faces charges of disseminating false information and belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, although Yasser Abu Hilala, Al Jazeera’s managing director, asserted in a statement that Hussein was in Egypt to visit his family, and not for work purposes.
Al Jazeera has been engaged in a tense standoff with Egyptian authorities since the ouster of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, for adopting an editorial policy supportive of the former president and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Al Jazeera employees have since been banned from operating in Egypt, and the last affiliate channel, Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr, was shut down in December 2014.
Egyptian authorities detained around 20 people working for Al Jazeera in December 2013, accusing all of them of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood. Among them were Al Jazeera English correspondents Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste. Greste was deported after spending 13 months in prison, while Fahmy and Mohamed were released by presidential pardon after being incarcerated for over 430 days.