CAIRO: Egyptian authorities have not yet disclosed the whereabouts of hunger-striking Al Jazeera journalist Abdullah Elshamy, who was reportedly moved from his Tora Prison cell Monday after reports on his failing health, according to social media posts by his two photojournalist brothers, Mosa’ab and Mohammed.
“The state categorizes journalists as loyalists and oppositionists, and interacts with journalists as such,” Ashraf Abbas, a human rights researcher and coordinator of the Journalists against Torture Monitor, told The Cairo Post on Tuesday.
He continued, “When an arrested journalist proves he works for a loyalist news institution, he is released in a matter of hours. But if is a journalist works for an institution deemed by the state as being in the opposition camp, like Al Jazeera, he is humiliated.”
Detained for nine months without a trial date
On World Press Freedom Day May 3, two days before Elshamy turned 26, an Egyptian court renewed his detention for another 45 days.
The Al Jazeera Arabic reporter was detained on Aug. 14, 2013, while covering the dispersal of the Rabaa al-Adaweya sit-in, where hundreds of Islamist supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi were killed by the Egyptian police.
He has been on a hunger strike since Jan. 21 in prison, losing 40 kilograms, according to his brother Mosa’ab, who told AFP that the last time the family saw Abdullah, “he was barely walking, and was not able to maintain his focus.”
His lawyer, Shaaban Saeed requested that Elshamy be transferred to the hospital for immediate medical attention, after his blood and urine tests on May 8 indicated he was suffering severe anemia, low red blood cell count and kidney dysfunction, according to Tuesday’s statement by Al Jazeera’s press office.
In nine months, Elshamy’s case has not been brought before a judge, and Egyptian law allows two years of pre-trial detention. Saeed told the AFP that Elshamy is charged with belonging to a “terrorist group,” and publishing false news.
“The Rabaa dispersal case,” as it is known in the Egyptian media, involves hundreds of others for whom charges mirror several other cases against Muslim Brotherhood supporters: illegal assembly, blocking roads, resisting the authorities, attempted murder and other charges.
Gehad Khaled, Elshamy’s wife, joined her husband’s hunger strike on March 14 to “experience what he is going through,” according to a post on her Facebook page. Her mother, Huda Abdel Moneim, told AFP that she fainted Monday and was transferred to a hospital.
“A hunger strike is a form of pressure and protest, but the regime is already showing complete insolence and refers journalists to criminal courts,” Abbas said.
Meanwhile, Al Jazeera journalists Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed have been detained since December 2013 but have been attending trial, the next session of which is scheduled for May 15.
Journalists languishing in Egypt’s prisons without charges
Mahmoud Abou Zeid, a freelance photojournalist, was also detained during the Rabaa sit-in and is being held pending a trial that has not yet begun due to an unclear indictment.
The British photography agency Demotix sent a letter to the Egyptian authorities confirming that Abou Zeid was covering the clashes for them, his brother Mohamed told the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
“The strangest thing is my country’s local organizations do not even recognize me as an Egyptian, or as an Egyptian human with as much rights as theirs to the soil of the homeland. They say I am not a (Journalists) Syndicate member,” Abou Zeid said in a smuggled letter in early March, which Shorouk News published April 29.
Abou Zeid spoke of “ongoing beatings” and said in his letter he was “abducted” by the state authorities. He called on the president, the prosecution, and fellow journalists to take action to end his “abduction” and acquit him.
“The constitution did justice to journalists, do justice to it, too. A journalist is the society’s mirror and servant, and is not a criminal to face charges that could sentence him to death!” Abou Zeid wrote.
Six journalists have been killed since July 2013 while doing their jobs, and at least 17 were behind bars in Egypt by late April, MENA Program Coordinator at the CPJ Sherif Mansour told The Cairo Post.
“Journalists detained have been proven to work for news agencies but the state flouts the constitution and the laws and deals with them as criminals, not journalists,” Abbas said.
Photojournalist Ahmed Ziyada was detained on Dec. 28, 2013 while covering student protests at Al Azhar University for the Yaqeen News Network.
On May 20, he will attend another court session determining whether his pre-trial detention would be renewed yet again, his lawyer, Mokhtar Mounir, told The Cairo Post.
“You appeal your 45 day detention before the criminal (court) judge, a glimmer of hope, maybe he would understand, hear, read that you are a journalist with no role in the events except that you film because that is how you make a living,” Mounir said in a Tuesday statement on Ziyada, published on the Facebook page of Journalists against Torture.
He continued, “You see a judge who does not hear, see, or speak. A judge for the regime refuses the appeal. The hope is gone.”