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Journalist Mohamed al-Batawy to be released after 2 years in pretrial detention

Release orders for journalist Mohamed al-Batawy were issued by the State Security Prosecution on Tuesday, after 25 months of pretrial detention pending investigations into charges of belonging to an illegal organization.

Batawy, who worked for the state-owned Akhbar Al-Youm newspaper, was arrested in June 2015 and has remained in detention ever since, without referral to trial.

Lawyer Ayman Barakat told Mada Masr that it is expected Batawy will be transported to Khalifa police station to complete release procedures, before returning to the city of Toukh in Qalyubiya where he lives.

“Unfortunately, Batawy was held, in addition to 48 others involved in the same case, for two years despite the lack of evidence to implicate him. During this period, the prosecution did not press more detailed charges against the defendants, with the general charge of belonging to an illegal organization being the only grounds for his detention,” said Barakat.

Rofaida al-Safty, Batawy’s wife, told Mada Masr in a previous interview that a group of masked police personnel raided their home, confiscating his hard drive and textbooks required for his master’s degree upon his arrest. While the police identified themselves to Batawy’s family as belonging to the Toukh police department, he was not taken there, or to any other station in the Qalyubiya governorate. According to Safty he was missing for two weeks before the state-owned Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported that he was being interrogated by the New Cairo State Security Prosecution.

Batawy is one among several journalists detained for extensive periods following the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi in 2013. Photojournalist  Mahmoud Abou Zeid, known as Shawkan, was arrested while covering the dispersal of the Rabea al-Adaweya sit-in in August 2013. The list of detained journalists also includes Hesham Gaafar, a researcher and founder of a media organization who has been held in the notorious Aqrab prison since October 2015 despite his deteriorating health conditions, and journalist and researcher Ismail Alexandrani, arrested in November 2015.