Prosecution appeals decision to release Egyptian researcher Ismail Alexandrani

Prosecution appeals decision to release Egyptian researcher Ismail Alexandrani
3 min read
21 November, 2016
Egypt's prosecution has appealed against a court decision to release researcher Ismail Alexandrani after more than 350 days in pre-trial detention.
Alexandrani has spent over 350 in pre-trial detention [Facebook]

Egypt's prosecution challenged a court decision to release journalist and researcher Ismail Alexandrani, lawyers said on Sunday.

According to Mokhtar Mounir, the fate of the prosecution's appeal will become clear on Monday. If denied, the release order will proceed.

The internationally-acclaimed researcher and Sinai expert has spent over 350 in pre-trial detention.

He was arrested last year at Egypt's Hurghada airport upon his return from Berlin, and his pre-trial detention has been continuously renewed since then.

The 32-year-old was accused of "spreading false news aimed at damaging the national interest and disturbing the public peace" and joining the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood group.

Dangerous findings

Before coming to Egypt, the expert's research findings found that affiliates of the Islamic State group had infiltrated the Egyptian army.

His wife Khadeeja Gaafar said that he was detained in Egypt based on instructions from the Egyptian embassy in Berlin, which has been accused of becoming the latest branch of Egypt's state security apparatus.

Local and international human rights organisations -including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch - rushed to his aid and condemned Alexandrani's arrest and prolonged detention.

Last month, Alexandrani was one of 22 nominees for the Reporters without Borders (RSF) TV5 Monde Prize for Press Freedom.

"A significant number of the nominees are unfortunately in the process of being prosecuted or are languishing in jail solely because they wanted to inform their fellow citizens about matters of public interest," RSF programme director Lucie Morillon said at the time.

The climate of freedoms in Egypt, particularly freedom of the press, is shrinking every day.

"Those in prison include Egyptian journalist Ismail Alexandrani… who, like many other citizen journalists all over the world, took over when the authorities stifled the traditional media," she added.

"We call for their unconditional release and the withdrawal of all the charges against them."

Last year Egypt jailed a total of 23 journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, making it the second-worst jailer of journalists in the world, behind China.

On Saturday, a Cairo court sentenced the head of Egypt's press syndicate and two other board members to two years in prison. They were also ordered to pay a fine of $650 on charges of harbouring two wanted journalists.

The ruling came months after security forces raided the press syndicate's offices in an attempt to arrest two journalists wanted in connection with protests over President Abdel Fatteh al-Sisi's decision to transfer sovereignty over two strategic Red Sea Islands from Egypt to Saudi Arabia.

The Cairo-based Arab Network for Human Right Information (ANHRI) condemned the "unprecedented ruling", saying that this was how the Egyptian authorities decided to punish the press.

"The climate of freedoms in Egypt, particularly freedom of the press, is shrinking every day," ANHRI said in a statement on Sunday.

"The Egyptian authorities' intent to silence anyone who dares to criticise them became clear."