Egypt orders release of mother held over 'false news'

Egypt orders release of mother held over 'false news' in BBC report
3 min read
15 January, 2019
An Egyptian court on Tuesday ordered the release of a woman accused of spreading "false statements" by telling the BBC her daughter had been forcibly disappeared.

The Egyptian woman was arrested after appearing in a BBC report [Getty]
An Egyptian woman accused of spreading "false statements" after telling the BBC her daughter had been forcibly disappeared was ordered to be released by an Egyptian court on Tuesday.

Mona Mahmud Mohammad has been in custody since March 2018 over accusations that she had spread false news and joined an illegal organisation.

An official at Cairo Criminal Court said on Tuesday that the court had ordered the release of Mohammad, "who is accused of spreading false news over the detention of her daughter and of belonging to a terrorist group".

The BBC report was aired in February last year and detailed numerous allegations of people being "jailed, tortured or disappeared" in Egypt.

It included the story of a young woman whose mother, named as "Um Zubeida", said she had been the victim of a forced disappearance.

The daughter later appeared on a local television show saying she had run away from her mother, married and had a child.

Egypt's prosecution office subsequently said it had tasked lawyers with monitoring news outlets and social media to "take necessary measures under criminal law" against "false statements, news and rumours that harm public safety".

The state security prosecution said in March it had arrested a woman in connection with the case.

Following the court's order, the official did not detail when Mohammad will be released.

The case is not closed, as she must report to police twice a week and still risks being put on trial.

Egypt's State Information Service, which regulates foreign media, had called on the British broadcaster to retract its report or face a government boycott.

The BBC said it stood by "the integrity of our reporting teams".

Rights groups have accused Egyptian authorities of carrying out a widespread crackdown on dissent.

In March, an Egyptian lawyer lawsuit filed against the BBC demanding the closure of its Cairo office and the withdrawal of its licence to operate in Egypt, Ahram Online reported at the time.

The Cairo Court for Urgent Matters announced the case was filed by lawyer Mohamed Hamed Salem.

The court case followed the report published by the British broadcaster that details the state's use of torture, forced disappearances and sexual violence against Egypt's political opposition.

The report, named "The shadow over Egypt" provoked outrage from Egyptian authorities, who lambasted the exposé - which featured numerous interviews with persecuted activists - as "lies".

In his lawsuit, Halem accuses the BBC of broadcasting "false news with the aim of undermining the stability of Egypt and defaming Egypt's reputation in the field of human rights", Ahram Online reported.

The report, penned by the BBC's Orla Guerin - includes the case of a Zubeida Ibrahim Younis, the 25-year-old Egyptian woman and her mother Mona Mahmud Mohammad.

Follow us on Twitter: @The_NewArab