The State Security Prosecution referred journalist and researcher Ismail Alexandrani to the military prosecutor in mid December, after he had spent more than two years in pretrial detention, according to lawyer Mokhtar Mounir, who learned of the referral on Saturday.
The State Security Prosecutor referred Case 569/2015, in which Alexandrani is a defendant, to the military prosecutor on December 13 without scheduling a session to consider the renewal of his detention, said Mounir. The lawyer added that he has attempted to inquire about the date of the court session but has not received a response.
Alexandrani’s most recent 45-day detention period ended on December 19. At that time, a Cairo criminal court should have held a session to consider whether to renew his detention. But no court session was scheduled. A December 19 court session would have been the first after Alexandrani has exceeded the legal limit for time spent in pretrial detention, a limit set in Article 143 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
Article 143 stipulates that pretrial detention in all cases during investigations shall not exceed two-thirds of the potential prison sentence mandated in the charges the defendant is facing, with a maximum of six months in misdemeanor cases, 18 months in criminal cases, and two years if the charges entail a life sentence or capital punishment.
The Criminal Procedure Code is in force in cases in which civilians are tried before military courts as well. As such, Alexandrani should have been granted release after he surpassed the legal limit for time spent in pretrial detention, according to Mounir.
Mounir stated that the charges Alexandrani faces — which include joining and supporting a banned organization and spreading false news liable to disturb public security and harm public interest — do not fall under military jurisdiction. However, Alexandrani could be facing other charges of which the lawyers are unaware, as they are unable to view the case files, according to Mounir.
Alexandrani’s case remains in the technical office of the military prosecutor and has not yet been assigned to a specific military prosecutor to begin investigations, according to Mounir.
It is possible that the technical office may decide that the case does not fall under the jurisdiction of the military prosecution, which would result in the case being sent back to the State Security Prosecution.
Ismail Alexandrani is a freelance journalist and researcher who specializes in issues related to Islamist groups and Sinai. He has been published in various Egyptian and Arabic-language publications. He was arrested on November 29, 2015, at Hurghada Airport, as he returned from Berlin, Germany after participating in a conference. His detention was based on an arrest warrant issued on May 2015, lawyer Khaled Ali told media outlets at the time.
Alexandrani’s arrest has been decried by Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Amnesty International and several other rights groups, which argue Alexandrani is being targeted for his criticism of the authorities in his academic and journalistic work.