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Egypt to release detained Turkish news agency staff

The Anadolu Agency's Cairo office was raided by Egyptian authorities [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 January, 2020

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Egypt will release and deport two Turks arrested in a Tuesday raid on the Turkish Anadolu Agency’s Cairo, while Egyptian Anadolu staff will be released on bail.

Egypt said on Thursday that it would release staff from Turkey's state news agency Anadolu a day after detaining them for allegedly spreading "false news" and working with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Police had raided their Cairo office on Tuesday and formally detained four staff members Wednesday at a time of rising tensions between the two nations.

The interior ministry charged that the news bureau was a front for a "Turkish troll farm... intent on broadcasting false news about the country's political, economic, security and rights situation".

The ministry said the employees were working "with the aim of distorting the image" of Egypt and said their cases had been referred to the prosecution.

It published the full names of those arrested - three Egyptian journalists and one Turkish citizen, who handled the office's finances.

But on Thursday evening, the prosecution said it would release not one, but two Turks, who would be deported via their embassy.

In a statement, prosecutor general Hamada Sawy said authorities would also release "three Egyptians on a bail of 10,000 Egyptian pounds" ($650).

Read also: The Egyptian army’s cheap tricks

Anadolu said Thursday that "one of our four employees who had been held in custody in Egypt" had been freed.

"We are awaiting the release on bail of our other employees," chief editor Senol Kazanci said in a statement.

Asked about the case at his daily press conference, United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric voiced support for freedom of the press, calling for the release of the detainees.

Turkey has summoned Egypt's charge d'affaires to protest the raid.

Read also: Turkey lifts nearly three-year ban on Wikipedia

Following current Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s overthrow of former President Mohammed Morsi in a 2013 military coup, Turkey gave strong support to Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement, condemning the coup.

Relations between Turkey and Egypt have been extremely poor since then. The Muslim Brotherhood was outlawed in Egypt in 2013 by the coup authorities.

Ankara and Cairo are also on opposing sides of the Libyan conflict.

Turkey supports the UN-recognised government in Tripoli, which is under assault forces loyal to rogue General Khalifa Haftar, who is supported by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

New York-based rights group Committee to Protect Journalists slammed the arrests, saying "journalists operating in Egypt should not have to work in fear that they will be used to settle political scores between countries".

"Authorities must immediately release the Anadolu News Agency staffers arrested yesterday and stop using false news charges to harass and silence the media," CPJ added.

The United States, an ally of both Turkey and Egypt, also called for the release of the journalists

"If true, we call on the Egyptian government to release the detained journalists and allow for a free and open press in Egypt," a State Department spokesperson said.

Egypt ranks third in the world in terms of the number of journalists in detention, behind China and Turkey, according to CPJ.

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