Yaqot, a photographer for the independent news website Karmoz, was detained by two police officers in plainclothes outside the Fauzi Maath police station, in the coastal city of Alexandria, where he had gone after getting a tip about a bomb threat at the station, according to Karmoz.
When Yaqot told the officers that he was a photographer, they verbally harassed him, beat him, and confiscated his press card, mobile phone, camera, and bag, Karmoz reported. The website said Yaqot was taken to his house, where police searched his apartment without a warrant. The local press freedom group Journalists Against Torture Observatory reported that Yaqot’s lawyer said police did not find any evidence against Yaqot in his apartment.
Yaqot is charged with possessing explosives, which authorities said he had in his bag, and belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, according to Karmoz and Journalists Against Torture. The Muslim Brotherhood is banned in Egypt.
Prosecutors split their case against the journalist into two separate trials, on similar charges. The first trial, on charges of “attempting to burn down the Fauzi Maath police station,” “participating in an illegal protest,” “possessing explosives,” “incitement to violence,” and belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood group, began in early 2016 in Alexandria. On September 20, 2016, the court cleared Yaqot of all charges.
In the second trial, the journalist is charged with “possessing illegal weapons,” “destruction of the Fauzi Maath police station,” and belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood. It was not clear when the second trial would begin.
The journalist’s lawyer and Karmoz said that Yaqot was not involved with the Muslim Brotherhood and had no political affiliation, according to news reports. Karmoz said he was arrested while doing his job for the website. Yaqot’s lawyer said he submitted documents to authorities that verified Yaqot’s legal employment at Karmoz, according to Journalists Against Torture Observatory.
Yaqot was being held in the Dekheila police station in Alexandria in pretrial detention. He has written several letters from jail, published by Journalists Against Torture Observatory and local media websites. In the letters, he describes the use of beatings and electric torture by security forces to collectively punish the group of detainees with whom he is being held.