Egyptian journalist and activist Ismail Alexandrani remains behind bars

Egyptian journalist and activist Ismail Alexandrani remains behind bars
3 min read
02 December, 2015
Rights groups are calling for the release of Ismail Alexandrani, who was detained at Hurghada airport late on Sunday accused of 'releasing false news'.
Critics say Egypt's current regime is cracking down on critical journalism [Getty]

Rights groups are calling for the release of Egyptian journalist and human rights activist, Ismail Alexandrani, who was detained at Hurghada airport late Sunday, reportedly accused of "releasing false news aimed at spreading terror" and "joining a banned group".

He was returning from Germany when arrested at the airport. He was interrogated before being referred to the Supreme State Security Prosecution in Cairo.

His detention was then extended by 15 days on Tuesday, pending further investigations, said the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights [ECESR] - where Alexandrani works as a researcher.


Lawyers engaged by his family and Egyptian rights groups told Human Rights Watch that Alexandrani faced lengthy interrogations at the State Security Prosecution office in Cairo on Tuesday.

     The arrest is deeply disturbing and fits a pattern of Egyptian security agencies arresting people whose writings don't conform to official views
- Human Rights Watch

The lawyers said authorities did not permit Alexandrani to see anyone - including a lawyer - for the first two days of his arrest.

"The arrest of Ismail Alexandrani is deeply disturbing and fits a pattern of Egyptian security agencies arresting people whose writings don't conform to official views," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director of Human Rights Watch.

ECESR also called on Egyptian authorities to release the award-winning investigative journalist with immediate effect and without condition.

Violation of Egyptian law

   
Alexandrani has reported on Islamist movements
and developments in the Sinai Peninsula


The independent journalist, who has reported on Islamist movements and developments in the Sinai Peninsula, was stopped by airport immigration officers when he arrived in Hurghada, a town on Egypt's Red Sea coast.

He had arrived on a flight from Germany at around 1pm on 29 November. 

Alexandrani's family and friends told Human Rights Watch that they lost contact with him after he called and said officers stopped him and took his passport.

The family added that the arrest could have been related to a memo that Egypt's embassy in Berlin reportedly sent to security agencies about his participation in a conference in Germany. 

Human Rights Watch say his detention appears to violate Egyptian law, as it requires security officials to immediately inform anyone they detain of the reasons for their detainment and allow them to contact a lawyer.

An investigation cannot begin without the presence of a lawyer, the rights group added.

Right to express opinion

Alexandrani's arrest comes three weeks after Egypt’s military intelligence summoned and detained for two days the investigative journalist and human rights activist Hossam Bahgat.

The authorities referred Bahgat to military prosecutors for further investigation on charges of "publishing false news" following a story for the independent news website Mada Masr concerning the prosecution of about two dozen military officers for allegedly plotting a coup.

Several activists have either been banned from travel or arrested while returning from abroad since the coup led by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. His critics say the arrests are the result of a crackdown on critical journalism.

Egypt's constitution states that citizens cannot be arrested unless they are caught in the act of a crime or there is a "reasoned judicial order" to arrest them, HRW explained.

Article Six of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, to which Egypt is a party, prohibits arbitrary detention, the rights group added.  

The charter also states that "every individual shall have the right to express and disseminate his opinions" and "shall have the right to leave any country including his own, and to return to his country".

"If Alexandrani had any arrest warrant or official charges, he should have been informed immediately," Stork said.

"What happened to him is clear intimidation and has little to do with rule of law."