New York, May 26, 2021 – In response to news reports that Egyptian freelance columnist Gamal al-Gamal’s health has seriously deteriorated during his pretrial detention in Cairo’s Tora Prison, and that he is suspected of having contracted COVID-19, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:
“We are extremely concerned by reports of journalist Gamal al-Gamal’s failing health in prison, especially since he should never have been arrested in the first place,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Senior Researcher Justin Shilad. “Egyptian authorities must immediately release al-Gamal and ensure that he receives the proper medical attention he gravely needs.”
The reports said that al-Gamal was suffering from the symptoms of COVID-19, including chest pain and body aches, but had not been tested for the virus. Prison authorities rejected the journalist’s request to be transferred to a hospital, according to those news reports.
Security forces arrested al-Gamal in Cairo International Airport on February 22, after he traveled to Egypt from his home in Turkey, as CPJ documented at the time; on February 27, prosecutors charged him with spreading false news, joining a terrorist organization, and inciting public opinion against state institutions, and ordered him to be detained pending trial. His trial has not begun as of today, a local journalist and press freedom advocate told CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.
On July 13, journalist Mohamed Mounir died after contracting COVID-19 in pretrial detention in Tora Prison, as CPJ documented at the time.