International rights organizations ِAmnesty International and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) issued a joint statement on Friday calling on Egyptian authorities to release Al Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein.
Hussein was detained by Egyptian security forces in December 2016. The producer, who had been living in Doha since Al Jazeera shut down its offices in Egypt, was arrested from his Cairo home during a visit to his family in Egypt. He has not yet faced trial.
“He spent several months in solitary confinement after his arrest and his health has deteriorated in prison. There are no grounds for the charges brought against him – ‘publishing false information,’ ‘receiving foreign funding’ and ‘belonging to a banned group’ – and his trial has still not begun,” read the statement.
Hussein’s family were allowed to begin visiting him in February 2017, two months after his arrest, RSF stated.
The poor conditions of his solitary confinement include being held without any source of ventilation and minimal sanitation facilities, the rights group alleged. It added that Hussein also was not able to go to an outside hospital when his arm was broken in an accident in June of this year.
Egyptian authorities detained around 20 people working for Al Jazeera in December 2013, accusing them of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood. Among these were journalists Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste, all of whom worked with Al Jazeera English. Greste was deported after spending 13 months in prison, while Fahmy and Mohamed were released by a presidential pardon after over 430 days in prison.
The channel’s Egypt reporter, Abdullah al-Shamy, was also imprisoned for 10 months and was released after a long hunger strike.
Al Jazeera has been engaged in a 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. In November, the channel aired a documentary “The Soldiers: Story of conscription in the Egyptian Armed Forces,” which detailed abuse conscripts faced and poor quality of training.
As of October 1, access to at least 434 online platforms, including news websites, blogs, proxy and VPN service providers have been blocked on Egyptian internet service providers, according to the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression. The website blocks began in May 24. No authority has claimed responsibility for the decision, and its legal basis has not been disclosed.
According to RSF, Egypt is ranked 161st out of 180 countries in 2017 World Press Freedom Index.