New York, November 11, 2020 – Egyptian authorities must immediately release blogger Mohamed Ibrahim, also known as Mohamed Oxygen, and drop all charges against him, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Ibrahim has been held in pretrial detention since September 21, 2019, when he was arrested and charged with membership of a banned group, spreading false news, and misusing social media, according to CPJ research.
He was due to be released on November 3, but the state prosecutor’s office yesterday filed an additional charge against him, alleging membership in a terrorist organization, and ordered his detention to be extended pending an investigation into that new charge, according to the regional rights group the Arab Network for Human Rights Information and news reports.
“Egyptian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release blogger Mohamed Oxygen and drop both the new and old trumped-up charges against him,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour, in Washington, D.C. “Egypt must end its inhumane practice of extending pretrial detentions of journalists by filing more bogus charges to keep them behind bars.”
Ibrahim was first arrested on April 6, 2018, after he reported on government opposition figures and irregularities in Egypt’s 2018 presidential election on his blog, Oxygen Egypt, as CPJ documented at the time. On July 22, 2019, he was released on parole, but was then rearrested on September 21 under new charges, according to CPJ research.
On November 3, a terrorism court in Cairo ordered the release of at least 300 people held in pretrial detention, including journalists Sayed Abd Ellah and Haisam Mahgoub, according to news reports. The court did not specify any reason for the releases, according to those reports.
As of today, Mahgoub and Abd Ellah remain in custody pending the completion of their release procedures, according to a local press freedom advocate familiar with their cases, who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.
Local lawyers and rights groups have noted that it is common practice for Egyptian authorities to file additional charges against detainees to keep them imprisoned, in what has become known the “revolving door policy,” according to news reports. Since April 2019, Egyptian authorities have used that policy to extend the detentions of journalists Shadi Abu Zeid, Mahmoud Hussein Gomaa, Alaa Abdelfattah, Mostafa al-Aasar, Moataz Wadnan, Mohamed Salah, Solafa Magdy and Esraa Abdelfattah, according to CPJ research.
CPJ emailed the Ministry of Interior, which oversees the state prosecutor’s office, for comment, but did not receive an immediate response.
Editor’s note: The spelling of the name of the journalist Haisam Mahgoub has been corrected in the sixth paragraph.