UAE authorities release Egyptian journalist after a month

The Emirati authorities released the Egyptian journalist Anas Fouda on August 4, 2013, after holding him incommunicado without charge for a month, the journalist told CPJ. Security officials told Fouda that his UAE residency was revoked and took him to the Abu Dhabi International Airport, where he flew to Cairo to join his family, Fouda said.

Fouda, an editorial director for the MBC group, reported for interrogation on July 2 in the emirate of Ajman with an official from the Egyptian consulate. He said that he waited for several hours after which he was blindfolded, chained, and taken to an unknown prison with three other Egyptians.

Fouda said he was held in solitary confinement throughout the time he was in detention and had only a mattress, a prayer rug, and a Quran. He was not allowed to have his eyeglasses for the first few weeks and was blindfolded each time he asked to go to the bathroom. He said the lights in his cell were very bright and were never turned off.

Fouda told CPJ he was interrogated twice during his captivity. He said that on the second day of his detention, he was asked about his connection to the Muslim Brotherhood. He said he had joined the organization many years ago but ended his activities in 1995 and that he had turned down a recent job offer with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party in Egypt because he was not interested in working in politics.

The Muslim Brotherhood is banned in Egypt and the Emirati authorities had launched a series of arrests and prosecutions of purported members in 2013.

Fouda was questioned once more before his release at the end of July. He said he was blindfolded and taken to a room where he was shown a video of Egyptian Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Fattah al-Sisi announcing the removal of former President Mohamed Morsi on July 3, 2013. This was the first time Fouda learned about the ouster.

Fouda said that later the same day he was shown pictures of several men with long beards wearing Emirati and Pakistani dress. He denied knowing any of them.

After about two weeks, Fouda said, he was transferred to a smaller cell in another prison at an unknown location. The day before his release, he was sent back to the first prison. He said he believes the first prison is in the outskirts of Abu Dhabi because it took 20 minutes to drive by car from the prison to the Abu Dhabi International Airport after his release.

Local and international human rights and press freedom groups, including CPJ and the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, waited for nearly a month after Fouda’s detention before going public at the request of the journalist’s wife, Abeya. On August 2, 2013, Nabil Fahmy, the Egyptian foreign minister, raised concern about Fouda’s case in a meeting with the Emirati minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Mohammed Gargash, according to news reports. Two days later, Fouda was released.

Fouda told CPJ that he was grateful for the organization’s help in advocating for his release.