Mahmoud Hussein has been put in solitary confinement and denied his legal rights [Al Jazeera]
In June, Hussein’s lawyer called for his release days after he completed the maximum period of detention permitted in a pre-trial arrest in Egypt.
According to the Criminal Procedures Law, authorities should have either released Hussein or referred him to a court by the 18-month mark, which was on June 21.
Hussein was detained on December 20, 2016, by Egyptian authorities upon his arrival in Cairo for an annual vacation to visit his family.
Five days after his initial arrest, Egypt’s interior ministry accused Hussein – an Egyptian national who was based in Doha, Qatar – of broadcasting false news and receiving foreign funds to defame Egypt’s state institutions.
Since then he has been put in solitary confinement, denied his legal rights, and has yet to be formally charged.
“We didn’t know what was happening or where my father was. At first, we didn’t even know if he was dead or alive,” his daughter Aya Hussein said.
Al Jazeera has condemned the repeated renewals of his imprisonment, denies all allegations against Hussein, and the network continues to demand his release.
In February, the United Nations called Hussein’s jailing “arbitrary detention”, saying the “appropriate remedy would be to release Mr Hussein immediately”.
Egypt also imprisoned Al Jazeera’s Abdullah Elshamy, Baher Mohamed, Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste on charges of spreading “false news”, in a case that was widely condemned by international media outlets and many politicians.
All have since been released.
Ibrahim Helal, former editor-in-chief of Al Jazeera Arabic, was sentenced to death in absentia for purportedly endangering national security. Several other colleagues have also been charged in absentia, such as journalists Sue Turton and Dominic Kane.
Reporters Without Borders ranked Egypt 161 out of 180 in its 2017 press freedom index, a “blacklist” of countries considered “prisons for journalists”.
“According to our statistics in 2016, we noticed there were at least 20 journalists behind bars because of their work,” says Alexandra El Khazen from Reporters Without Borders.
“They’d find themselves in a group political trial with hundreds of others accused. The accusations against them are political, because of their journalistic work, as if they were activists or terrorists.”
Mahmoud Hussein’s current colleagues describe him as a trustworthy, passionate and experienced journalist.
“He did his job objectively. He always maintained balance and professionalism in his reportage,” Al Jazeera Arabic presenter Mohammad Krichen said.