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Wave of detention renewals in Case 441/2018 amid growing security crackdown

Amid an ongoing security crackdown, prosecutors continue to detain and interrogate people in relation to Case 441/2018, which involves a number of prominent figures. On Wednesday, the Supreme State Security Prosecution handed detention renewal orders to several bloggers and journalists, including Wael Abbas, Moataz Wadnan, Shorouk Amgad, Mohamed Abu Zeid and Momen Hassan.

Wadnan, a journalist at HuffPost Arabi arrested in February, was handed a 45-day detention order by the Cairo Criminal Court, having exceeded the five-month limit on the Supreme State Security Prosecution’s authority to renew detention orders, which is stipulated in the Criminal Procedures Code, lawyer Amr Mohamed told Mada Masr.

Abbas, who is known for blogging about protests and documenting police brutality, was handed a 15-day renewed detention order by the Supreme State Security Prosecution, the fourth renewal since his May 23 arrest, according to lawyer Karim Abdel Rady. Photojournalists Shorouk Amgad and Mohamed Abu Zeid were also given an additional 15 days in remand detention on Wednesday, Abdel Rady added. Amgad, a freelance photojournalist, was arrested on April 25 and Abu Zeid, who works for Tahrir news website, has been in police custody since June 7.  

Although the precise date of his arrest is unknown, freelance documentary filmmaker Hassan was brought before the Supreme State Security Prosecution approximately two weeks after his mid-June arrest, according to Abdel Rady. Hassan was then added as a defendant in Case 441/2018 and handed a 15-day detention order, which was also renewed on Wednesday.

The defendants involved in Case 441/2018 face a range of counterterrorism-related charges, including joining a terrorist organization, publishing false news and establishing and running social media websites to communicate with terrorist groups.

Wednesday’s wave of detention renewal orders come just one day after the Supreme State Security Prosecution renewed the detention of journalist Aly Rashad for an additional 15 days, pending further investigations in the same case, according to Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) lawyer Nour Fahmy.

Fahmy told Mada Masr that Rashad was arrested on March 14 and held for 10 days at the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters, before he was transferred to the Supreme State Security Prosecution on March 24.

Journalist Mohamed Saeed was also added as a defendant in the same case on Monday, according to Osama Bayoumi, Saeed’s lawyer.

Bayoumi told Mada Masr that Saeed was arrested near his residence in the Mit Okba area of Giza on June 1 and held in an unknown location. Several days later, his family and lawyers learned that he was detained in the NSA headquarters located in Sheikh Zayed, on the outskirts of Cairo. Saeed appeared before the Supreme State Security Prosecution on Monday night for the first time as part of Case 441/2018.

Under investigation by the Supreme State Security Prosecution, Case 441/2018 includes a ever growing list of journalists, bloggers, lawyers and students who face charges based upon emergency and counterterrorism legislation through which authorities seek to prosecute political opposition, and which was condemned by Human Rights Watch in a report released on Sunday.  

Several defendants involved in the case have decried the conditions under which they are being held in custody. Mohamed, Wadnan’s lawyer, told Mada Masr that his defendant has been on hunger strike since June 14 in protest against his detention conditions, as he has been subject to maltreatment while in custody, barred from family visitations and was not allowed to speak during previous court sessions. The hunger strike has led to a marked deterioration in his health and severe weight loss, Mohamed added. An investigating officer physically assaulted Wadnan 10 days ago in an attempt to force him to end his protest, but Wadnan refused, according to his lawyer.

In addition to those mentioned above, Case 441/2018 also includes journalists Mostafa al-Aasar and Hassan al-Banna, who were arrested in February; prominent rights lawyer and Executive Director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms Ezzat Ghoneim, arrested in March; and Fatma Mohamed and her husband Abdallah Moddar, also arrested in March.

Authorities detained and added University of Washington PhD student Walid al-Shobaky to Case 441/2018 in May, after his four-day disappearance. Photographer Abdel Rahman al-Ansary is also a defendant in the case, as is Adel Sabry, editor in chief of the privately owned Masr al-Arabia news website who was brought in for interrogation and detained earlier this month after his release on bail was ordered in a separate case.

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